Emotion: what comes to mind? Maybe, moody teenagers, couples in love, or is it road rage! Emotions have the power to shift perspective and focus in a way that influences energy. Love colors everyone and everything in a generous light and moving through the world feels light and free. Joy makes the energy we all possess feel like a bouncy ball, and clouds out any negative cues. On any given day, how many emotions are there? I can’t even begin to guess.
It only makes sense that emotional eating is an especially hard habit to break. Once a habit has been encoded in the brain and a shortcut link has been formed from cue to habit it becomes a very powerful response. But the good news this response is really just a habit. It’s a habit that can be broken, one that doesn’t have to (as my mother would’ve said) rule the roost. Sound good? Is it easier said than done? Well, yes, probably… but what have you got to lose except for a habit that isn’t serving you well.
The “Research Says” category name for this phenomenon is, “cue-induced wanting.” Self-control doesn’t work in the long term, we tire and succumb to the habit. So learning how to lesson this habit is in our best interest. Let’s say stress is the trigger for emotional eating.
- Name the habit so it can be known to you: I want to eat, not because I am hungry but because I am stressed out.”
- First, try to replace overeating with something beneficial. What you decide is up to you. Some possible options might be: walking the dog, meditation, or something creative.
- Then if that isn’t possible, if at the moment the emotion is too hot, limit the damage. Eat low-calorie options with a big CRUNCH eat an apple, carrots, or celery. Or drink water with a straw that “emptying sound” can be very satisfying when you get to the bottom. Chances are you won’t do much damage to your weight loss efforts.
So can we really erase emotional eating? I’ll tell you, but first a story. I love to draw. Sketching that perfect line is extremely rewarding. However, I don’t always get the line perfect on my first try. Many times I’m pulling apart my gummy eraser to blot out a section of the line to make an adjustment. Changing a line’s direction, depending on how sure I was in my initial attempt, can be difficult. Sometimes even with my best efforts, I can still see traces of my misguided lines. Cue-induced wanting (stress=food) also makes deep grooves in the brain. Remember, habits are powerful – but the human spirit is a mighty force. I say yes, we can “erase” emotional overeating and make it virtually invisible, just as a heavy line on the page is erased traces of it remain upon closer inspection. Sometimes the beauty of a thing is in its imperfections.