Eating is a part of life. Regardless of your food philosophy, your body gets its nutrients from food. Sometimes we can go overboard with our eating habits and it can result in gaining weight. But overeatingduring the holidays or on summer vacation isn’t a serious issue. Emotional eating, on the other hand, is a sign of something deeper that must be resolved.
The problem of emotional eating may end with the scale but it begins in the mind. When stress comes hard and fast without sign of stopping and food is your comfort you may be a victim of emotional eating.
Everyone has good days and bad days. How we deal with the bad ones brings emotional eating into play. We all deal with stress and emotions different ways. People who turn to food for comfort find a coping mechanism that won’t judge them, hurt them or tell them “no.” To complicate the issue, eating pleasurable foods can stimulate the release of endorphins just like exercise. So, after you eat, you feel better.
Emotional eaters use food to relieve stress. They hide behind the food instead of seeking solutions to the problems. This is not uncommon when the stressor is something horrible such as physical abuse or a death or it can be as normal as job or home management stress.
Recognizing Emotional Eating
How do you know you are using food in this way? The first sign is obvious: You will gain weight if you eat too much. In light of the weight gain, examine other areas of your life:
* Have you been under stress lately at work or at home?
* Has anything traumatic happened in the last year?
* Are you dealing with a problem but haven’t found a solution?
*When you should be facing an issue do you instead turn to food?
*Are you eating foods your normally would not eat?
*Do you find you’re eating alone at odd hours of the day or night?
Answering “yes” to any of these questions could mean that you are an emotional eater. You eat but you are not necessarily hungry at the time. The foods that you choose are what we term “comfort foods”:
* High-fat foods like French fries, fried foods
* High carb foods like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes
* Sugary foods like ice cream, donuts, cookies, cake
Even if you follow a real or whole food diet you can still be overeating foods that aren’t optimum when you’re emotional eating. A donut is still a donut even if it's soaked flour with homemade icing.
Breaking Free in 1, 2, 3
Step 1: Admit the Problem
The first step is recognizing that you have a problem. You’ll experience feelings of helplessness and guilt. The guilt is over potentially ruining your health and the helplessness lies in the fact that you don’t see a way out. Do not allow condemnation to keep you stuck.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ~ Romans 8:1 NIV
Step 2: Recognize the Spiritual Aspect
Secondly, recognize the spiritual aspects of your stress and your current situation. Remind yourself that Jesus said,
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30, emphasis is mine)
Remind yourself that the true Comforter is with you if you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior. Food does not need to be your comfort. Jesus left and when He did, the Comforter was sent. Let’s look at the words of Christ:
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener and Standby), that He may remain with you forever.” ~ John 14:16 AMP
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. ~ John 16:7
Step 3: Seek Help
If necessary, seek ministry counseling. A biblical Christian counselor can help you resolve spiritual issues that are holding you in bondage and manifesting in your emotional eating habits. Emotional eating has nothing to do with dieting or changing your eating habits but gaining control over your emotions.
Finding new ways to solve your problems and deal with stress will push food out of the equation. You’ll feel good about finding solutions which will replace the dependence on food.
You may not need a professional counselor but you can find an accountability partner who would be willing to meet and pray with you. When you're going through stressful and difficult times, be sure to evaluate your food intake and keep your emotional eating under control.