You made it through a hard day.
Your kids whined and fought all day.
You gave a particularly difficult and stressful presentation at work.
Everyone made it through this day alive.
You accomplished something you feel good about.
Any of these scenarios resonate with you?
There are soooo many forms of feeling like you deserve a “treat” at the end of a particularly hard, or even a particularly successful day.
It’s a reward for getting through whatever you got through today.
For you, maybe getting through the day with young children is TOUGH. They take all your energy, your time, and by the end of the day, you’re completely drained.
So, you turn to food.
You look for the chips in the cupboard, you hit up the gas station for the largest soda they have, you end the night with ice cream, or you raid the cookies in the pantry.
Ah, it feels nice to sit, veg, and reward yourself for making it through the day.
For me, accomplishing something big was ALWAYS cause for a reward. In college, if I passed a test or just simply made it through a tough presentation, or lived through finals week, I deserved a treat.
It was always a sweet treat.
Brownies or cookies were my staple. And bonus points if there was ice cream in the freezer. Sundae every night, anyone?!
Food was my reward. My reward for accomplishing something. And although sometimes it was accomplishing something great, it was mostly a reward for making it through the day.
And that became my habit.
Every time I made it through the day, I got a “reward” in the form of food.
Which pretty much meant every day.
I didn’t really realize it until I wanted to change my health. I was in college learning about health and nutrition, but I was struggling to follow the same principles at home.
I quickly discovered that giving up my reward system each night was going to be difficult. I had come to rely on that instant gratification.
What about you?
Are you frustrated feeling like you can’t give up the cycle of needing a food reward for making it through the day?
Do you use food to numb your feelings? And it doesn’t always mean sad feelings. It can be feelings of anger, frustration, excitement, or just a general feeling of not wanting to do one more thing this evening.
If you find yourself struggling with eating your feelings, today’s post is for you.
And if you already know you struggle with emotional eating, head on over and sign up for my free mini course “Make Peace with Food” which will walk you through all the steps of recognizing and dealing with emotional eating.
The definition of emotional eating is eating in response to feelings instead of hunger.
Other truths about emotional hunger (and discerning between emotional and physical hunger) come from this article, and include:
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. Physical hunger typically comes on gradually, and you may have physical signs like your stomach growling.
Emotional hunger craves specific – and in most cases, unhealthful – foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything will do, including healthful foods.
Emotional hunger results in mindless eating. Did you just down a pint of ice cream before bed without realizing or enjoying it? Polished off a sleeve of cookies in front of the television after work? Inhaled a drive-thru burger while crawling home in rush-hour traffic? These are most likely examples of emotional eating.
Emotional hunger is never satiated. You want more and more until you’re stuffed – or find yourself in a “carb coma,” slumping after eating too much.
Emotional hunger has repercussions. These include guilt, shame and regret, to name a few. Physical hunger never leaves you feeling badly about yourself.
So, if you find yourself leaning more toward the emotional hunger at the end of the day, here’s what you can do about it:
4 THINGS YOU CAN DO INSTEAD OF EAT YOUR FEELINGS
Get away from the temptation. Leave the room. Leave the house. Do whatever you need to do to get away from the current scenario.
The physical act of leaving with also help you mind “leave” the room and leave the emotional situation behind.
But, what do you do? That’s up to you! Do you have a favorite place to go? Maybe it’s a walk around the block (I know it can be hard to start, but you always feel better after getting some fresh air, right?!).
Maybe you have another room with books, crafts, or hobbies to pursue. Go there.
Go to the store. Obviously don’t replace your emotional therapy with retail therapy, but go enjoy a free walk around the store. Try on some new clothes. Go to a bookstore and read a short book.
The key is to get out. Getting away from the situation physically will help you get away from it mentally too. And chances are, you won’t be as likely to eat when you get back.
TWO: DEAL WITH THEM
If you have recurring feelings that drive you to eat emotionally, it might be time to confront them, to deal with them. To take a look at why they happen, what causes them, and what you can do about it each time you experience the emotion.
The first step is to stop. Stop eating. Stop and notice what you are feeling.
Are you eating because you’re angry, stressed, tired, lonely, sad, happy, etc? Recognize the emotion happening in your body right now.
Then, write 1-2 solutions for dealing with that emotion. For example, if you’re stressed, what do you do to relieve stress? Do you exercise? Do you read a book? Do you take a hot shower? Write a couple ideas down, and it’s ok if they are new ideas! If you want to try meditating, go for it right now!
Then, spend the next 10-20 minutes working on your emotion. When you are finished, check in again. Is the drive to eat still there? If it is, maybe you are physically hungry and you can grab yourself a snack that will satisfy instead of a “reward” snack.
Each time you feel the drive to emotionally eat, try first stopping what you are doing and then figure out the emotion you are experiencing. Find a method for dealing with that emotion that isn’t food. You’ll quickly have a good list of things you can do instead of eating food when you’re experiencing some uncomfortable emotions.
THREE: MAKE A LIST OF SELF CARE ACTIVITIES
As moms, sometimes we forget that we have things we like to do. Maybe we’ve forgotten how to take care of ourselves. Maybe we don’t know what we’re into anymore.
If you feel like you’ve lost your identity a little lately, try finding some things you either used to enjoy or new activities you want to try.
ideas for self care activities
Try a new exercise class (maybe even sign up for one in the evening when you know it’s your hardest time with eating).
Try a new reading genre.
Start a hobby, whether is be crafting, or something else
Have a game night with your spouse or significant other
Clean out a section of your closet or a junk drawer
Try meditation or yoga (this is my favorite free yoga station!)
Start a book club
Plan your next vacation
Start a vision board. Dream
FOUR: HAVE SOME FUN
Want to know the best way to feel better instantly? Have fun. Do something that makes you smile, laugh, or takes your mind off of life.
Remember Mario Kart? Challenge your spouse to a duel. Pull out some old game boards, watch You Tube videos that make you laugh. Follow a dancing game such as Dance Revolution (that brings some serious laughs to this non-dancer). Build a fort and watch a movie.
Did you know kids are some of the best examples of intuitive eaters? Learn from them. Learn that sometimes all it takes is a little distraction and a lot of fun to get your mind off of food and the emotions you’re experiencing.
As you start to pay attention to your emotional eating behavior and cycles, you can then start changing them. Soon enough you will have a lot of great tools to use instead of turning to food after a long, hard day.
Instead of feeling like you deserve a treat, your mind will shift to deserving more self love, self care, and fun in your life. You’ll find ways to deal with your emotions that actually work, that don’t leave you feeling guilty or depressed.
And remember, if you still struggle with emotional eating, sign up for my free course “Make Peace with Food” to help you identify and deal with those emotions in the non-food way.