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How to Break Your Emotional Eating Cycle – Part Two
In part one of this series I focused on understanding the different emotions and situations that emotional eating takes place. Truly, the only way to change something is to understand it. So if you haven’t had the opportunity to read part one I strongly encourage you to start there.
In this post, I will discuss ways to address and change each part of the cycle.
As defined in the first post, emotional eating can be separated into four different emotions and situations. Some people who emotionally eat don’t have a pattern with each of the four. Others bounce from one pattern to the next and back again.
We identified the four categories into rewards, comfort, guilt, and shame.
First, for each category ask yourself the question, am I hungry?
Often our hunger cues can get confused with cravings. Hunger is a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat. A craving is a powerful desire for something.
So the question is, am I hungry, meaning my body is lacking food and thus energy?
Or am I craving _______ because… The ‘because’ is what we’ll get into for each section by answering the series of questions.
If you find yourself in any of these emotional situations, take the time to answer these questions before you eat. This requires motivation and desire to want to change your behavior!
Why do you feel you should be rewarded? What has made this particular situation a time for celebration? Why this food? What connection or tie do you have to this particular food? How were you rewarded when you were young?
Are there other ways you could celebrate? Are there people you could tell about your situation that would support your accomplishment? No. Why not? Have you shared your celebration with God?
Why are you distressed? What emotion are you experiencing? Sadness, loneliness, rejection, overwhelmed, anxious, bored? How is this food going to bring you comfort? What is this food going to provide? How long is the food going to bring you comfort? And then what?
Are there other ways to seek comfort? Are there other people you could go to? No? Why not? Have you taken your distress to God?
What are you feeling guilty about? The food you have already eaten? Something else? How is food going to help you move on?
Allow yourself to repent. To yourself or to others depending upon the situation. Forgiveness is the only way to release yourself from the guilt. Food won’t help. I promise it won’t. It will only add to the guilt and then turn deeper.
No matter the situation, God will also forgive you. Whether it is food related or otherwise you can give it all to him. I urge you to release it.
Dear friend, what are you ashamed of? What has lead you to believe you are bad, less than, or unworthy? The food won’t help ease your pain. You are worth more than using this food as a way to harm yourself. How long have you held this in?
Nothing you have done can change your worth! You are loved. You may not believe that yet, but you are loved!
In working through my own struggles with emotional eating I sought out many resources and tips.
Often I found advice just focusing on behavioral tricks. I’m sure you’ve read them and even tried a few.
- Brush your teeth after eating so you don’t eat more. — Umm…that’s great if I hadn’t already eaten three helpings of food while sitting at the table. Also, I became an expert at what foods didn’t taste too bad with toothpaste.
- Exercise instead — Sure and then afterward I would feel even more justified in eating because I just burned off extra calories!
- Do something distracting — Yep, this is when I would peruse all of the wonderful recipes on Pinterest!
The behavioral tricks may help a few times but the problem is that it doesn’t really focus on where the cravings are coming from and why they are happening.
The two books that helped me the most to break my emotional eating cycle were Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst and Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig.
Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst
Made to Crave focuses on the emotional aspect of your emotional eating cycle not just the behavioral. Lysa Terkeurst challenges you to address your cravings and recognize how you are putting food before God. It’s a great book that pushes you! Check out my full review here.
Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig
Food Freedom Forever is written by the co-creator of the Whole30. The book is secular but also provides understanding to the emotional aspects of food especially in the areas of guilt and anxiety. Food Freedom Forever gave me a practical template to address food in a healthy manner so that I could focus on overcoming the emotional attachments with food.
Both books identified the same template when making food choices. Is it Permissible? If no, say for allergy sake or if you’re completing the Whole30, then the decision is made. If yes, then, is is beneficial? Is is going to nurture you? Yes? Go for it. If no, then is it worth it? What are the potential consequences?
1 Corinthians 10:23 (HCSB) “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.
This decision making process has been beneficial for me to follow after better understanding my emotional eating pattern. So again, emotional understanding has to come first. But you have to eat, too. This process then helps to make the best choices.
I pray that this post helps you to feel equipped to break through your emotional eating cycle!
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