Emotional eating is defined as consuming large quantities of food (usually unhealthy or comfort foods) in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.
The French do not associate feelings with eating. To become an intuitive eater, I must first acknowledge the fact I cope with feeling bored or anxious by eating. I had to find ways to cope with these feelings in a different way than heading toward the kitchen. Different coping mechanisms work, and what works for me may not work for someone else. I like writing in my journal, talking to my husband, or meditating to uncover what is really going on behind my desire to eat unnecessarily. Sometimes the simple act of identifying why I am feeling anxious is enough to give me pause.
If I overeat when I am not truly hungry, I know something else is going on. I once heard excess weight is not about what you are eating but what’s eating you. I have conducted a lot of emotional self-exploration, which I may not have been ready to delve into before now. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to face certain issues until this moment in my life? Food isn’t going to solve my problems, but it’s up to me to figure it out because Ben & Jerry do not have the answer for me. Sure it tastes good, but when my spoon hits the bottom of my delicious pint of Chubby Hubby, I am still sitting with the same issues I had before digging in and now I feel bloated and overly stuffed.
Now, compared to the decades of dysfunction, my relationship with food and trusting myself is very new. I’m still figuring this out and there are moments I feel tentative and can feel myself slipping back into thinking “I shouldn’t eat this or I should abstain from ordering a dish because…” but I do not have a good reason why I should forbid myself from eating something I want to enjoy. The interesting part is if I truly listen to myself, eat what I want and follow my hunger cues, I am happy and satisfied after eating two cookies. I have managed to feel good with two cookies instead of eating four, then fight the overwhelming urge to take some bites of ice cream straight out of the carton (because it doesn’t count if you don’t scoop it into a bowl right?), and then some chocolate. (Yes, I have a major sweet tooth.)
As an intuitive eater, I do not need to count every calorie, and I do not need to stress over every crumb. This is a new-found freedom! I almost feel like this is an experiment, but so far, so good.
How my kids have helped me quit dieting
What it comes down to, for me, are my daughters. They do not see me saying “Oh no, I shouldn’t eat [X] because I’m trying to lose weight.” If I turn down a dinner roll it’s because I am not interested in eating bread just because it’s there. I do not think carbs are the devil (grains are a major food group, and I bake bread and treats on a near-weekly basis). Furthermore, I doubt said dinner roll is going to be the most amazing roll in the world. If I am truly hungry for bread or if I really just want the bread, I would eat it. In the meantime, I am content saying, “No, thank you.”
My girls see me enjoying food with them at every meal and they see me enjoying the pleasures of food life has to offer. Truly, my hope is they sidestep the diet/weight trap I feel every woman gets tripped up with at some point. Wouldn’t it be something to break the dieting cycle? I have decided I’ll be the first to lead by example for my girls. If one day they feel self-conscious and become overly food-focused, I will have the life experience, knowledge and know-how to help them return to a path of healthy living and return to a cycle of healthy eating, self-love, self-acceptance and joy.