It’s smooth sailing for emotional eaters. They sail right over their feelings. Dive right into the fattening food to stay afloat.
Where the waters get turbulent is when the emotional eater tries to do something about her weight-loss difficulties or her eating pattern. Straight up dieting and exercising do not come to her rescue. Something more is needed. That something more carries with it the danger of being capsized by the very feelings she is sailing over.
If you are an emotional eater, who has weight to lose and a pattern of eating to change, you will have to include right along with your exercising and dieting a way to reduce the impact that your own unpleasant feelings have on you. You’ve probably tried a number of techniques besides eating over them: suppressing them, distracting yourself, reassuring yourself (“that’s not so bad”), criticizing yourself.
Have you tried anticipating these feelings and the situations in which they might occur? In other words, before you’re in the throes of the emotion that might make you turn to comfort food, think about it, anticipate it.
Some feelings and situations repeat themselves over and over again, and these you can anticipate far in advance—a week, or even a month. Then there are those situations which you won’t anticipate until the day before, the day of, or closer to when they are upon you.
Once you anticipate, you can go on to size up the unpleasant emotion. How big and unpleasant do you think it will be for you? Use a subjective rating scale, if that helps you see the upcoming emotion for what it is. On a scale of 0 to 10, for example, is the upcoming emotion you’re anticipating a 4, is it a 7; what is it?
Next see if you can think differently about the emotion you’re anticipating. Let’s say it’s going to be another tough work day tomorrow, just like it’s been for the past week, and you’ve been rewarding yourself with eating too much food for dinner each night. Well, you can anticipate feeling the same again tomorrow night.
So, what to do about it?
Why don’t you see what the tough emotion is that you want to sail through. It could be anger, frustration, fear of failure, anxiousness about getting yourself motivated to do all that work again. Maybe it’s a bit of all of these feelings. In any case, is there a way you can think of the emotional situation that would make you more comfortable?
Perhaps you can make it a challenge: “Let’s see what it will take to make it more pleasant for myself.” Or, you can think of the work as more circumscribed: “I’ve done a lot on it so far. It should be over in a couple of days.” You could even decide: “I’ve been stressing myself out more than I have to by feeling picked on by my manager. That’s a ‘poor me’ pattern that’s been too much a part of my personality. I’d like to get rid of it. Here’s a chance to try.”
Remember, the goal is to make it easier for yourself emotionally. No more eating over it for smooth sailing. If you prepare for the rough spots, which any able-bodied seawoman would, then your journey will result in changing the way you eat and successful weight loss.