Emotional eating is a good thing. Wait, what? It's a good thing to eat when I'm stressed, bored, or upset?
Just let me explain a minute. Emotional eating is a very clear sign that something in your life is out of balance. It's your body's way of sending you a BIG clue that it's time to take a look at your life. It's time to look at why you can't stop snacking when you're bored at night (even though you're not hungry), or why you find yourself driving to the store when you're sad or upset.
Realizing why you're eating those cookies yet again and can't stop is the first step to changing the habit. I'm not saying it's the first step to "controlling" your emotional eating because controlling (your weight, your diet, your life) may be one of the biggest reasons you're eating emotionally. Understanding WHY you're reaching for food naming that feeling can help you find ways to take care of yourself and your needs, so you don't need cookies to soothe and comfort you.
That's why I was so excited to read Susan Alber's new book - EatQ: Unlock the Weight Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence.* She really gets it. She explains right off the bat that most people know what they should eat, but when those cookies appear in the breakroom, things get crazy.
Emotional eating and food struggles affect more people than you think. Eating disorders don't discriminate. She explains that some of the smartest, most successful people struggle with a disordered relationship with food, and it often comes down to emotional intelligence. That is, many people on the outside may appear to have wonderful, healthy lives, but that doesn't mean they are taking care of all their needs (emotional, physical, mental, social, etc.).
Emotional and binge eating holds a lot of shame, so they may have their little secret of downing a pint of ice cream regularly. Which is of course not a bad thing, but the shame and guilt doesn't feel very great. Instead of beating yourself up about it, you could consider it a sign and ask yourself - what do I need? Or you may truly just be hungry - if you let yourself get too hungry, naturally you may crave higher calorie, higher fat, or higher sugar foods.
Emotional intelligence is our awareness and understanding of our emotions and other's emotions. Yes, this means you have to be vulnerable and open to addressing feelings and emotions to help change your relationship with food. You can put yourself on a meal plan or eat balanced meals to help stay physically satisfied, but the emotional eating doesn't change until you understand the true meaning of nourishment from a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual standpoint.
Susan uses her EAT tool to help guide decisions with food to:
- help improve body image
- put your healthy lifestyle knowledge into action
- enjoy eating
- embrace feelings & more
Sounds pretty great, right? Easier said than done, but building your mindful eating toolbox and emotional intelligence over time will help you change your relationship with food, one day at a time. There's no promises for a quick fix to weight loss, but if you're really ready to do the work to find food freedom, this book can help get you there.
Let's be honest. Many of us don't want to talk about emotional eating because we think it's embarrassing or like there's something wrong with you. Opening up to a stranger about these deep, private thoughts can be really hard. I fully support working with a therapist and a dietitian if you're struggling (especially for eating disorders), but Susan's book can also guide you in your journey. She breaks down what emotional intelligence and "EAT-Q" is, as well as the barriers to mindful eating. Things won't change until you understand what's holding you back and your fears. Some of these blocks may be within you or in your environment - such as family members making comments about your weight or what you're eating.
Mindful Eating Tools for Success
The most practical part of her book is the last section - Tools for Success. Just like my 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge, she breaks down mindful eating into detailed steps. You can find the ones that work best for you. One of my favorite tools was the "Emotional Status Updates."
Emotional Status Updates
Think about how often you check your email or Facebook. Every hour (or more), right? I fall into the constant checking at times as well (I'm working on it :) ).
Now, how often do you check in with your emotions? When you check in more often, you can gauge where you're at before you go into the whirlwind of "I'm so stressed that I'm going to eat all the chocolate" state. Taking a few moments to breathe, and check in where your body is feeling tension and how you are feeling can make all the difference. If you find yourself eating out of stress or boredom after work, you can anticipate this and bring a balanced snack with you, or go for a walk during that time to calm yourself down instead.
If this tool doesn't resonate for you, there are 24 other ones to check out! I guarantee I'll be using this book myself to continue my mindful eating journey, as well as with clients.
Luckily, one of you will have the chance to check this book* out too! Dr. Susan Albers kindly agreed to donate a book to giveaway here. It will run for 1 week until Monday, June 23rd. All instructions are in the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!
*Disclosure: These are Amazon affiliate links.