“What do you do when you overeat simply because you love food and you just want more of it because it tastes so good?”
A woman in our Weight Loss Without Restriction group recently asked this question, and I know she’s not the only one wondering the answer.
You might be surprised by the answer, or even disagree. But hear me out… Many people only equate emotional eating with eating when you’re stressed or sad (ie. eating when you are experiencing an emotion that you want to avoid)
But in Balance365 we teach that emotional eating can also be used to enhance an emotion. For example… overeating simply because you love food and want more of it.
Eating when you are celebrating something, visiting with people you love, or when you are in a great mood are also examples of eating to enhance an emotion. Our minds can latch onto the food or the taste of the food as a way to capture even more of that good experience.
This is a pleasure-seeking behavior and before you start shame spiraling, it’s a completely natural and normal human behavior!
All of us seek pleasure in our lives. And food is pleasurable. Period.
This is the point where many health coaches might start giving you strategies of how to curb your urge to eat, or what to do instead. Maybe suggesting you could eat at home before you go out with friends, or you could drink a cup of tea to see if that helps curb the craving for more of whatever you are eating, etc…
I’m not going to do that right now.
There are of course strategies you can use to stop eating or to eat something that is more aligned with your health goals. Those strategies can be helpful for people who struggle with emotional eating, and we can talk about them (another time).
But what I want you to do right now is take a moment to zoom out and look at your whole life. Think about where you experience pleasure in your life right now.
Do you take pleasure in time with your family? Not just “do you love your family”, but do you have time when you are not working or serving or taking care of them that you can just enjoy their presence?
Do you take pleasure in nature? Do you take pleasure in a hobby? Do you take pleasure in connecting with friends or trying new experiences?
For many women, they have a lack of pleasurable experiences in their lives. And so eating becomes one of the only ways they treat themselves, one of the only ways they give themselves a pleasurable experience that can be enjoyed just for the sake of enjoying it.
No wonder this habit is so hard to let go of.
When I was in the height of out of control emotional eating, I would find myself grabbing for snacks after the kids were in bed. I wasn’t necessarily hungry, it was emotional eating. And I recognized a thought that was driving this habit.
“This food is all I have at the end of the day that is just for me.”
My husband was busy, my children were small, I was constantly caring for other people and neglecting to care for myself. I was in this situation where the only tool I had in my toolbox to feel better and wind down was food.
The truth is there are many ways to enjoy life. Food is one of them, and it can be a wonderful way to enhance pleasure. But if food is the only way you take time to experience pleasure, that often will lead to feeling out of control around it and put you on a trajectory that may move you away from your nutrition goals (depending on what those are).
The deep and foundational issue here is: where else can we create pleasurable experiences for you in your life? So, with that in mind, I have a challenge for you!
Take a few minutes with a pen and paper or the notes app on your phone and write down things you enjoy. Then go back and flesh out each of those ideas to include how you can build them into your life.
An example could be:
“I enjoy connecting with friends.”
“I can text a friend I don’t see very often and plan a time for us to get together. Maybe we could find a local event to explore or take a hike in a beautiful spot.”
The goal is not to stop emotionally eating altogether. Not at all! The goal is to build other pleasurable experiences into your life so food is not the only thing you do for yourself.
We would love to hear your thoughts and how you decide to build pleasure into your life, let us know in our free Facebook group! And if you want to dive even further into emotional eating, we created the 3 Steps to End Emotional Eating Mini-Course just for you.
Women who take our course are saying things like… “What really struck me is that as a means to bring me joy or relieve stress… eating was not working. Since watching the course it’s been so easy to just figure out what I need and do something that meets the need better. I don’t feel restricted, and I notice that now I feel hungry at mealtimes which is a joy because I love food. I can see this becoming a way of life because it’s so easy.”
I hope you come away from this with a more pleasure-filled life. You deserve it!