Comfort eating is a habit we develop in childhood and perfect in adulthood. I yet to hear an overweight person say that they don’t comfort eat. It may be described as emotional eating, or hedonic hunger. The reasons for doing it are wide and varied but the end result is always the same, fat gain.
I could write a 10,000 word dissertation on why we comfort eat, and perhaps someday I will, but in the meantime I want to share some simple tips that have worked for me. I too was a comfort eater. Comfort eating aided my 45lb weight gain. Combating comfort eating has helped me to maintain a healthy body weight for the past seventeen years.
Emotional and Comfort eating are often an automatic response, almost mindless eating. Before we even realise what we are doing we’ve eaten half a box of cookies, or a tub of ice-cream. Sometimes we see the empty wrappers and can’t believe that we have eaten so much.
If we pause for just a few seconds, and think about what we are about to do, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to make a better decision.
During the few seconds pause say to yourself ‘I am going to eat this entire box of cookies even though I know it will cause fat gain and leave me feeling guilty, disappointed and out of control. Or I can put the cookies away, take back control and feel proud of myself’.
Rather than mindless eating, we are making a conscious decision. Instead of being disappointed after the fact, we pause and either choose to eat the food and bear the consequences or to reject the food and feel better about ourselves.
Facing our feelings can be really scary and often the fear is if we allow ourselves to become emotional we will lose control entirely. When we feel powerless over dealing with our feelings head on, it is easier to supress them with food.
We are emotional beings. We are designed to have strong feelings and emotions. Keeping our feelings supressed actually elevates them to an unrealistic level and can leave us feeling completely overwhelmed.
Truthfully when we decide to face our feelings even the most painful and difficult will subside with time. Once we experience the emotion, the fear and obsession leaves us.
Experiencing the feeling, acknowledging the source and taking positive action will help us to repair emotional problems that trigger emotional eating. In turn this alleviates stress and promotes better sleep patterns.
Our feelings are an insight to our fears, desires, frustrations and the things that make us happy.
Sleep or lack of it affects our fat loss efforts in every way. When we don’t get enough sleep, or have a disturbed night’s sleep we spend the day feeling lethargic. We are more likely to reach for the mugs of coffee and sweet treats to boost our energy levels throughout the day. We are less likely to feel energetic enough to take time to exercise.
When we are sleep deprived we produce more Ghrelin, the hormone that reminds us to eat, and less Leptin, the hormone that tells us we are full and satisfied.
Less Sleep = More Ghrelin + Less Leptin = Fat Gain.
Develop a bed time routine for yourself, just like you would to encourage a child’s sleeping pattern.
When we are carrying extra fat, feeling physically unfit, mentally weakened by life, and unable to find happiness, even small difficulties become impossible to deal with rationally. We feel as though we are losing control and the answer is often found in the refrigerator or food cupboard.
When we take control of our body shape, chose regular activity, become physically and mentally strong, well-rested and calm, we also take control of our thoughts and feelings. We trust our judgement and have confidence in our decision making. We are better able to process a difficult situation or troubled relationship, and use logic to make decisions on how to deal with the problem head on, instead of turning to emotional eating.
Making healthy lifestyle change give us the strength and determination needed to say no to comfort eating.
People are always asking me how I have so much will-power, where do I get it from and how do I hang on to it. The truth is I don’t use will-power, I don’t believe in it, I cannot depend on it therefore it is no good to me.
That’s good news because you don’t need will-power either. Will-power is linked our emotions. When we are feeling positive and motivated we have will-power in abundance. When we are feeling low and uninspired the will-power deserts us. What we do need are Healthy Habits.
Comfort Comes from Friends not Food
When we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed and in fear of giving into the temptation to comfort eat, calling a friend can relieve the desire to comfort eat.
Quite often we will find it’s not necessary to speak about what is troubling us, simply having contact with another person, who genuinely cares about us, is enough to help.
No matter how strong and independent we are in life, we still need the support of others. It is not necessary to struggle on alone. Life is a whole lot more full-filled when we share it with people who care about us and who genuinely want us to succeed.
If you put these 5 simple steps into practice you can combat comfort eating just like I did.
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