Finding Help for Emotional and Binge Eating


Food gives Us Strength.

Food provides us with nourishment and strength... the strength to get up every morning and go to work, to take care of our families and responsibilities, the strength to have fun with our friends, exercise and enjoy the day! Food also provides us with a feeling of satisfaction, both in pacifying our hunger and making our bodies feel good. Eating can also comfort and soothe our feelings or support the mood we're already in.

When it comes to comfort food some of us prefer fatty salty foods like potato chips or pizza while others of us crave desserts and sweets like candy bars, ice cream, or doughnuts. We all connect with different types of foods, but no matter our choice, the end result turns out the same when we continually have the tendency to eat past our limit - we don't feel good physically or about our selves, and often we gain weight, develop health problems, and end up feeling helpless to our cravings.

Am I Emotionally Eating?

Here are some tell-tale signs of emotional eating that we use to identify problematic eating habits and know that at GoVa Hawaii's Counseling Center we have psychologists who are specifically trained to help you and are available to answer any questions that you might have. Just contact us !

We eat because our moods desire it rather than because we nutritionally need food.

The trouble with mood-related eating is that we're eating foods that comfort our feelings, "comfort foods", and those are typically very high in calories from fats, sugars, or carbohydrates. Comfort foods usually fill us up for a short while, but leave us with cravings that  come back soon.

The other challenge with emotional eating is that our cravings are driven by feelings of distress over situations in our lives. We may or may not know where those stresses are coming from, but either way they're signals of unresolved issues surrounding our lives. Those unresolved issues commonly bring us stress and frustration on their own, but when coupled with emotional eating, we feel even more helpless and bad. In fact, a sign of emotional eating is that we feel guilty, helpless, frustrated, or mad at ourselves after we've eaten what we know we shouldn't have.

Our cravings are intense and persistent, and even when we don't really need to eat we continue to.

With emotional eating we don't feel satisfied no matter how much we eat, or not until we've eaten much more than we needed to. Often emotional eating leads to feeling physically sick, disgusted with ourselves, fatigued, and unhappy. Commonly we feel guilty, helpless, and down about our ability to control our food cravings or eating binges. Often we eat when we're bored or even happy, but we don't stop even when part of our minds keeps telling us we should.

We have the tendency to binge eat (gorge ourselves), eat compulsively (without stopping), and/or impulsively (for no reason).

We all eat for emotional reasons occasionally, and there is nothing wrong with that from time-to-time. Comfort foods can ease our stress, share our celebrations, and help us gel with our day. The problem arises when we don't feel empowered to support ourselves or cope with the challenges we face and we can't maintain our ability to set healthy limits to the foods we like to eat.

If we can't succesfully manage the amount and types of foods we should eat we begin to feel helpless to our impulses. We feel desperate and out of control and these feelings can lead to binge eating habits. Binge eating often takes the shape of not being able to stop eating even when we're making ourselves physically sick or are significantly compromising our health.

Binge eating can come from cutting out all our comfort foods, leaving us feeling completely deprived and alone. It can come from not using any control skills to manage our eating habits, which makes us feel like we're helpless or a failure - and such bad feelings lead to more self-sabotaging tendencies. All of these behaviors can be changed with the right help and support. 

The Good News!

Although some of us are prone to emotional eating, no matter how out of control we may feel there are helpful skills we can use to help us soothe our feelings, while staying empowered to take care of our bodies and our lives. Here are some helpful tools to help you take charge of your emotional eating habits:

1) Stock your home and office with healthy snack foods. It may not sound exciting, but after a while partaking in some healthier options will help you feel like you can take care of how you look and feel.

2) Find positive distractions other than eating which will help keep you from reaching for the Ben & Jerry's. Engage in things that remind you of the positive in your life and who you are... Take an art class or keep a hobby that you can work on. Grab a fun book or go see a movie. Call a friend and talk by phone or meet up for some coffee. Go for a walk. Clean your house. All of these things will make you feel more positive about your life and the choices your making to not eat when you shouldn't.

3) Eat small amounts of your favorite comfort foods and then make yourself do something positive that is away from food. Have a slice of pizza and then go for a long, long walk. Eat a small bowl of ice cream and then call your best friend and talk until you're tired enough to go to bed.

4) Or go the other route and eat something healthy first! Eat a meal filled with sustaining nutrients like fish, grains, vegetables and see if you're cravings have not gone away.

5) Take empowerment in your life and find out where you're feelings are coming from and what's triggering them. Most of all, find out what to do about them! If you don't know the answers, get some help. Take empowerment in your life and you will start to feel better right away. Each step is a step closer to a brand new you!