There are 2 big reasons why emotional eating is harmful.
This is the obvious one and a reason you likely already know so I won’t spend much time on it.
Eating emotionally generally means eating too much for the majority of people. For some it means not eating enough or not eating properly, and going down that rabbit hole can be just as bad or worse than overdoing it.
But for those that indulge, the consequences are possible (and likely) weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and more. Then there are all the consequences of those consequences. For example, with diabetes one can experience nerve damage, liver damage and more. Sleep apnea untreated leads to high blood pressure problems and high blood pressure leads to strokes.
A hit to one’s health is an obvious harm in emotional eating but is worth going over to emphasize the seriousness of it.
This is where most of the damage of emotional eating is done. The physical issues are serious enough yet they are dwarfed by the effect that continuous, stress eating has on the psyche. Most of us miss this important fact but fortunately we can do something about it.
When we eat to soothe we are distracting ourselves from our underlying anxiety or sadness. We are generally unaware of these feelings and go all day long (week long, years) tolerating the discomfort they bring to our body.
So we’re not in tune with them and we’re not fully aware of the discomfort either, yet we do know on some level that we need a break from them as they feel overwhelming.
Just as the alcoholic pours down a 5th of scotch to take the edge off, so do we eat 5 slices of leftover banana cake to do the same. We are all anxious, frustrated and disconnected. The smoker, shopaholic, A-type, gambling addict are all behaving in that same way to take the edge off.
Some people say that we are eating to experience pleasure. Although cake tastes good, it’s not an entirely accurate thing to say. If it was about pleasure we’d stop after eating just one. When you get to your 5th piece it’s doesn’t taste as good as the first and at this point you are eating simply to eat and distract. It doesn’t feel good, it simply soothes the bad.
Eating tasty carbs and sweets does have a mild, drug like effect which helps keep the anxiety at bay, for a short while. Eating some warm, just-out-of-the-oven, homemade banana cake is like an injection of heroine. The feeling that best describes it is relief.
So eating soothes us and distracts us from our anxiety. Where is the harm in that?
Distraction is a poor way to manage the anxiety. What you’re really doing is pretending it’s not there. The problem is that anxiety not faced grows bigger and bigger leading to all of the problems that come with that.
More anxiety means more emotional eating. It also means you are likely to adopt other distracting behaviors (internet, Netflix) as food won’t be enough anymore. Your productivity goes down and your decision making ability is skewed in favor of doing things that will ease the anxiety, instead of doing things you need to do.
Your self esteem suffers and so do your relationships as you become less and less connected. Your anxiety slowly envelops you and becomes all encompassing. Your whole day is about not having to feel or face it. An uphill battle for sure.
You no longer operate from a place of authenticity inside and therefore lose yourself to the emotion. In other words you’re drowning.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
If you’re already neck deep in the mud or simply want to avoid getting there then there are a few things you can do to help bring some control back to your life.
1- Is to read the Emotional Eating Guide. It’s free of course and is the main page of this website. It was written in 2 parts to help people first control their eating and weight, and second to start to dig into the root cause; the emotional aspect.
2- Use some of the strategies at the bottom of the guide in a consistent manner. They don’t require any money and only a little bit of time.
3- Start talking. Open up to people you trust and to people you don’t, but who are close to you. Let them know what’s going on inside. The purpose is not so that they can have that information about you, but so that you can.
Reading alone only gets you so far. The biggest problems we face are in the relationships we have or the ones we avoid. What are you not saying to your spouse? Who are you avoiding? How easy is it to say “no?”
Chances are that answering those types of questions will give you more insight into your emotional eating issue than worrying about portion sizes or taking deep breaths etc.,
No matter where you are at this point, your life can start to move in a different direction by looking within on a regular basis. Start with the guide.
THE EATING LOVE GUIDE (FREE)
The Eating Love Guide has helped many people regain control of their eating patterns, resulting not only in weight loss but also better health and improved self-esteem. To read it online, click here.