Written by Teena Travis
I remember it clearly: I was quite young and had a bad dream, so I did what any small child does, and I got out of bed and found my mom. Being a great mom, she comforted me, gave me cookies and milk, a little love, and tucked me back into bed.
And that’s when it happened! Sweets imprinted instantly in my impressionable young mind as a form of comfort.
Now even as an adult, in times of high stress or grief, I will instantly turn to sweets for comfort. Maybe it’s because as I’m plowing through the box of Milanos I can almost feel my mom’s arms around me, assuring me that everything will be all right. Clearly my mom had no ill intentions; she, like all mothers, just wanted to make me feel better. Had she any idea that it would be the catalyst to a life-long struggle, I guarantee she would have given me a celery stick instead and tucked me back into bed.
Recently, someone at the gym had the courage to tell me about their own struggle with emotional eating and I realized that I’m not the only one who battles with the desire to eat their emotions. So why don’t we ever talk about it? I’m not entirely sure the answer to that but I would hazard a guess that it is because we are ashamed. It never feels good to be out of control, and most of us really do not want to admit to the world that we are anything less than perfect. Well, as a dear friend and coach recently pointed out to me, perfection is impossible and outside the realm of possibility.
Balance, however, is completely reasonable.
In the name of achieving balance, let’s discuss a few things we can do to combat emotional eating:
Recognize your triggers. Are there places or situations that cause you to feel stressed? Keep in mind that it is not ONLY stress that can trigger emotional eating. However, stress does trigger cortisol to be released and when were are chronically stressed (which is often the case for many of us) all that extra cortisol can, and often does, result in cravings for high fat, or sugary foods to give you a burst of energy . Unfortunately, your body is unable to distinguish between stress from work and stress that results from having to outrun a saber tooth tiger! It’s weird to think about but both work and outrunning a tiger can cause you to crave food.
Find better ways to “feed your feelings”. Once you begin to recognize your triggers, find healthier ways to combat that stress. Call your best friend, take a walk, listen to your favorite album, meditate, go to the gym, whatever it is that brings you joy and results in a calm state.
Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, spend time with family and friends, eat clean, and give yourself permission to take time that is just for you.
Lastly (and I would argue most importantly) forgive yourself. The situation may arise where you find yourself falling into old habits. Remember that they do not rule you. Mistakes and setbacks will happen. Do not live in the past, recognize the behavior, learn from it and, most importantly, move forward!
 Legal, Ph.D, Jeanne, and Melinda Smith, M.A. “Emotional Eating.”: How to Recognize and Stop. N.p., Aug. 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.