Emotional eating can take hold of us like no other kind of appetite. And there are some things to know about it. It’s like a fish in a pond. Does he ever know that he is in a pond and there is a whole big world out there? Unless he’s had the misfortune of being caught by a fisherman, he does not know what it’s like not being able to breathe. He doesn’t know that he’s in water. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
On the flip side, there are often messages our brains are giving us that we aren’t aware of, they’re subconscious, but they’re directing our behavior. If we can become aware of these messages, we have some hold on deconstructing them so they no longer have a hold on us.
How can we do this? The first thing you need to do is to eliminate the chaos. If there are six human hungers and all six are speaking to you at the same time, who knows what is what? You will never have clarity about any of the individual messages directing you to eat.
So what can you do about it? Now that you know the other 5 human hungers (see my last 4 blogs), you can consciously eliminate them as triggers. For example, if you know that you often don’t get enough water and that dehydration is a hunger signal, then make sure you get enough water! Pre-empt that signal. And now you only have five hungers to drive your behavior. Work your way at eliminating the other 4, and the only one left is emotional hunger.
How do you eliminate this one? Start paying attention to the voices in your head when you want to go eat a bag of Oreos. Or for me, when I make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning just like my grandmother used to do when I was growing up – and that even though I have chosen to stay away from baked goods like that – I feel the need to have one! What is it that makes me want to eat the cinnamon roll? Is it that it’s so delicious that I need to have one? Is it that it reminds me of fond memories? Is it that terrible feeling that I get 10 minutes later like a brick is in my stomach or that I have had too much sugar? And when in the series of all those things does the urge actually occur? Episodes like this will likely have to occur more than once for you to figure them out, but when you do, you gain power over your brain and your subconscious. And then you can make a conscious choice. And each time you do, that voice of emotional hunger will get quieter and quieter.
I actually had this experience recently. I have been working hard at keeping the other five hungers squelched. My biggest downfall is usually around 4pm. My blood sugar dips too when I don’t have time for lunch. And then I want to eat the quickest thing available. And that is not always what I should eat. So now this is not happening. Now the only time I feel like eating something that is not ideal…like a sweet, is when I feel frustrated. I realized several years ago that I want to eat sweets when I get frustrated. And for those several years I would often cave and have something. But the other day, when I was feeling frustrated, I immediately started to think about what I could eat. And I thought, I’m not hungry. In fact, I realized how much of a habit it was. And likely I would normally have had blood sugar hunger in the mix and would feel double the need to satisfy the desire for a sweet! Several seconds later the feeling passed. It was strange to realize how little time the desire actually lasted. So I just continued on with what I was doing and didn’t eat anything. This is just one small example, but if you keep chipping away at it, the emotional hunger can be tamed quicker than you think!