Posts tagged: emotional eating

Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge

By Katie, 5:45 am

Sometimes it just happens. Maybe I’m exhausted after a long, stressful day at work. Maybe I just received some terribly upsetting news about a close friend or family member. Perhaps I just spent hours fighting off some anxiety about an upcoming social event. But for whatever reason, sometimes it just…happens.

I bolt. I emotionally check out for the evening, using a massive bowl of ice cream or cereal (or both!) to facilitate the zoning out process. I feel better for about 5 whole minutes, after which I am overrun with guilt about the whole thing.

Recently a reader and I were chatting through e-mail about how to handle the whole post-binge-guilt thing. This reader had just come off an overeating episode and was really struggling to just accept what happened and move on. She was getting so caught up in her past stumbles that it was inhibiting her ability to move forward.

She asked if I had any advice, and I told her I thought the old adage “forgive and forget” might be useful here. Except instead of forgiving someone else, in this case we need to forgive ourselves.

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Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge

Step 1: Recognize that I overate for a reason.

Each and every time I turn to the ice cream bowl, it is for a legitimate reason. I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t providing me with something – most often short-term comfort, a way to check out. No, using food as an emotional relase is not a healthy coping strategy, but it’s still a coping strategy. It’s giving me the break or release I’m looking for.

I find that it’s easier to forgive myself when I recognize that it wasn’t simply a lapse in will-power or resolve; it was a way (albeit an ineffective one) of comforting myself.

Step 2: Explore the reason.

So I recognize that I overate for a reason, but sometimes in the moment I have no idea what that reason is. While I usually don’t try to dissect the situation in the immediate aftermath – when my judgment is obviously still a little cloudy – once the storm has settled I do take some time to reflect. I question what I was feeling in the minutes, hours, or even days before it happened. What exactly was the trigger?

Step 3: Make a plan.

I am totally a Type-A personality, and here’s where it really shows. I find that I am only able to move on once I’ve established a new course of action for the next time a similar situation rolls around. I think through how I can take better care of myself, how I will sit through the difficult emotions instead of running away from them, and who I will reach out to for support.

Granted, I’m not always successful with following through on this plan when the situation arises, but the very act of outlining a strategy gives me the confidence to forget the missteps of the past and press forward on my journey toward well-being.

Because in the end, there’s really no reason not to forgive and forget. The guilt doesn’t get me anywhere except deeper into my own mess. But when I forgive myself for struggling and then refuse to dwell on the episode, I’m able to pull myself back up, dust off my knees, and pick up right where I left off.

Do you ever struggle with post-overeating-guilt? How are you able to forgive and forget?

**This post stemmed directly from a reader’s question. If you have a question you’d like me to address here on HWS, feel free to e-mail me at katie@healthforthewholeself.com and I will do my best!

**Stop back tomorrow for a super fun Giveaway! (I am very excited about this one!) :-D

What About Emotional UNDEReating?

By Katie, 5:27 am

When I wrote the post on my Brownie Alert, several people commented that they couldn’t really relate because they don’t struggle with emotional overeating. In fact, some of them said they struggle with the exact opposite: emotional undereating.

But wait: Is undereating the exact opposite of overeating? I’m going to say no. I believe that overeating and undereating are inherently intertwined; in many cases, they are essentially two sides of the same coin.

I mostly discuss emotional overeating on this blog because that has been my biggest struggle as of late; however, I have plenty of experience with emotional undereating as well. And it really is emotional undereating. By that I mean, it’s not just about vanity or wanting to lose weight; it’s about  – as Mish so aptly pointed out in this postusing food to manage our lives.

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Essentially, overeating and undereating have always provided me with the same comfort – I’ve used them both as (ineffective) coping mechanisms. For example:

  • I’ve used both overeating and undereating to numb me from feeling difficult emotions.
  • I’ve used both overeating and undereating to distract me from real life.
  • I’ve used both overeating and undereating to avoid situations that caused me pain or discomfort.
  • I’ve used both overeating and undereating as obsessions that drowned out the rest of the world.

For me, it’s always come down to that last part – the obsession. Regardless of whether I was planning a binge, feeling guilty over a binge, meticulously counting calories, or thinking about ways to restrict my food intake, I was always obsessing over food and my weight to the point of not living my life.

The point is that, be it overeating or undereating, bingeing or restricting, it’s masking something deeper. As Margarita pointed out, something lurks behind anyone’s obsession with food.

And just as the motivations are often the same, so too are the solutions. The key to freedom from emotional overeating or emotional undereating is digging out and confronting those demons that are lurking deeper; it’s learning to manage our lives with positive, effective coping strategies instead of harmful obsessions.

It’s learning to live a life that involves food, rather than one that revolves around it.

Have you ever experienced either emotional overeating or emotional undereating? Or are you like me and have experienced both?

And, if so…

Do you find that certain situations lead you to overeat emotionally, while others lead you to undereat? Answering that question is a good way to begin the process of digging up the real issues!

Brownie Alert!

By Katie, 5:27 am

No, sorry, this isn’t a recipe post. Although if you’re looking to make some brownies, I would recommend one of these:

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Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that while we hear a lot about “emotional eating,” the actual experience of it is unique and personal; no two people experience emotional eating in exactly the same way. Some people eat out of boredom, others out of loneliness, others out of anxiety, and still others out of all of the above. What triggers emotional eating is different for everyone.

Similarly, when we overeat emotionally varies from person to person. This was brought to my attention during a conversation with my mom last week. She shared with me that she’ll often receive some kind of stressful or sad news and then find herself heading to the kitchen to help put it out of her mind. She feels the negative emotion and then soothes it with food.

Interestingly, that’s not how I experience emotional eating at all. For me, the order is reversed. 8-O

Let me explain. There have been countless times in my life when I’ve thought to myself, “Why am I driven to overeat right now? What the heck is going on?” I couldn’t trace my behavior to receiving bad news or experiencing a difficult situation. Rather, I had become so immune to my emotions that I would be driven to overeat before I could even feel them. I so effectively used food to block the stress or the anxiety that I was unaware those emotions even existed – they were buried that deep. :-(

So instead of feeling the stress and then eating, I eat (or want to eat) and that makes me realize I’m stressed. Does that make sense?

On the one hand, this can make emotional eating significantly more difficult to prevent. On the other hand, it serves as a really great warning system. I call it my “Brownie Alert.”

Basically, when I feel the urge to eat and eat and eat even though I’m not hungry, I now see it as a big sign flashing “Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson Katie!” :lol:

In all seriousness, though, engaging in emotional eating – or even just the urge to do so – does help me to see that something is off-balance and it’s time to re-evaluate. It forces me to step back, take a good look at the broader picture of my life, and see where improvements need to be made. Do I have too much on my plate and need to relax a little bit? Am I stressed about work and not managing it effectively? Do I need to work on improving my relationships? Have I been ignoring my emotional wellness, my spiritual wellness?

This, perhaps, is the positive side of my struggles with emotional overeating. I now have a built-in balance barometer, in a sense. When those brownies are calling my name – and not in a healthy indulgence kind of way – I now take it as a sign that it’s time to reassess; it’s time to get back in touch with me. :-)

Do you have some kind of built-in alert system like my Brownie Alert? Something that warns you that your life has become off-balance?

AND

If you struggle with emotional overeating, do you find that you usually feel the emotion and then turn to food, or the other way around? Or perhaps you experience it in another way entirely?

Eating After Overeating

By Katie, 7:12 am

I hope I never give the impression on this blog that I have the whole emotional eating business totally under control. The truth is that I still struggle; it’s a battle I expect to fight for a long time. But with each encounter I face with the binge monster – regardless of whether I win or lose – I get a little stronger and a little smarter. And a little better at bouncing back. :-)

I received an email from a reader asking me to address the issue of post-binge eating. She wasn’t asking about how to handle the emotions that were covered up by the food, or how to manage the guilt that is so often associated with overeating. She simply wanted to know how to carry on when the next meal rolled around.

Her question is an extremely important one. I am convinced that how we eat after a binge – what we consume the next day – has a lot to do with whether we come back strong or end up overeating once again.

So what should one do the day after a binge? My answer is simple: RESUME REGULAR EATING.

You see, the old, weight-obsessed Katie would have spent the entire next day or week trying to “make up for” the overeating episode. Skipping a meal or snack. Denying my hunger. Only touching the safest, “healthiest” foods possible.

I’d drive myself mad trying to calculate and then cut the exact number of calories I had consumed in my emotional state. Which led to another emotional state, not to mention a hungry one. Which inevitably led to another binge. :-?

I have since learned that – at least in terms of one’s eating habits – the best thing to do after overeating is simply move on. Forget about it. Expunge the experience from memory. Because the game of trying to undo the overdoing is a never-ending one. Attempting to control the ever-tipping scales of overeating and under-eating will surely make you crazy.

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So instead, I say RESUME REGULAR EATING. That means waiting until you feel physical hunger once again (and you will, even if you swear you won’t), then eating what your body wants and stopping when your hunger is satisfied. No counting involved. ;-)

I have found that our bodies are amazingly resilient. If I truly listen to my body – instead of my mind – after overeating, it always naturally brings me back to a place of balance. It’s when my brain starts interfering with thoughts of weight and body image and emotional mumbo-jumbo that I remain off-kilter.

While I’m at it, I’ll say that I believe this rule of thumb holds true for exercise as well. The old Katie would use abuse exercise as a way to both “counteract” the food and punish herself. She would tack on some extra miles or push out another 30 minutes on the elliptical, even as her exhausted body screamed at her to stop. Today I try my hardest to follow the same rule as with eating: RESUME REGULAR EXERCISE.

Like I said, the emotional aspect of this is totally separate; it is very important to confront the emotional demons that led to the edible overdose in the first place. But in terms of the food, don’t bother with the compensation game. Instead, trust your body to do its job – restore you to equilibrium.

What’s your take on eating after overeating? Can you relate to the “old Katie” who attempted to compensate by under-eating and over-exercising?

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