Louise Thompson 's Opinion

Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise Thompson: Emotional eating exposed

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Louise Thompson looks at why we might comfort eat. Photo / Thinkstock
Louise Thompson looks at why we might comfort eat. Photo / Thinkstock

Emotional eating or comfort eating has become a mechanism for many of us to reduce stress and anxiety. Other ways of reducing stress might be socially less acceptable (or difficult to access in the middle of the day) such as alcohol or smoking, so comfort eating fills an accessible gap in terms of instant stress relief that can be undertaken in public any time of the day.

The primary reason we should be eating is because we are hungry. That's it. However, it's easy to get confused between physiological hunger (rumbly tummy, etc) and emotional hunger (we want to feel something different than what we are feeling right now). There is only one thing food should be used for and that's fuel.

Regularly or habitually using food as a drug to create an altered state of mind or mood can lead to disastrous long-term consequences. Why? We will overeat because the food can never actually meet that emotional need.

We are asking food to do something it can't do. So we never reach that point of satiety.

It's a strategy that is doomed to failure. Getting back to basics and letting food be just food, and taking care of changing our emotional state in other ways is often the secret to effortless weight loss and maintaining our natural body weight.

In this seven week mini-series we will look at some of the most common ways we use food to change our mood and some strategies to change that, so that if this is an issue for you, you will have the tools you need to overcome emotional eating.

We will cover:

1. We reward or treat ourselves with food for something we have
accomplished. We use food as praise.

2. We use food as comfort. We use it to distract us from thoughts of sadness.

3. We overeat because we are bored. We use food as entertainment.

4. We use food as a reason to rest and to stop doing what we are doing. We use food as permission to rest.

5. We use food as company. We eat because we are lonely. We want to feel connected and loved, and food represents love.

6. We will look at the principles of intuitive eating.

7. Social and celebratory eating. How to still have fun without it undermining your healthy eating intentions.

Listen to the messages your body is sending you. Your body has a very clear set of signals that it will send you when it is physiologically satisfied, and when you are physiologically hungry and requiring fuel. As you go through this week I want you to quietly and regularly observe this:

• When I am really stuffed and have overeaten my body feels ______

• When I am lightly satisfied once I have eaten my body feels ______

• When I am peckish my body feels ______

• When I am really hungry my body feels ______

Try and include as many physical registers and signals as you can. Does your tummy rumble? Do you feel light-headed or irritable? There are dozens of physical cues on the scale of satiety. Get clear on what your signs are so that next week when we dive into how to effectively tackle emotional eating you can feel the difference between true physiological hunger and emotional hunger - which will make every bite you take more delicious.


Action step

Get super conscious on what physiological hunger looks like for you. This is the only reason we should be eating so it's important to be really clear on what it feels like which, if you have had years of yoyo dieting or starving and binging, you might not be.


Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise, visit positivebalance.co.nz or connect on Facebook.

- NZ Herald

Louise Thompson

Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise is a corporate escapee turned wellbeing pro. After 17 successful years on the commercial side of media a serious health crisis led to a complete lifestyle overhall and a brand new direction. As a life coach, and the first Martha Beck accredited coach in New Zealand, she loves nothing better than to help her clients get inspired, get happy and make their own rules for a connected, passion-fueled life. Her first book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness, aims to motivate people with practical solutions to step up and live their best lives. A qualified yoga teacher she also runs her own yoga studio and leads corporate wellness seminars. Louise loves to run, cook and dance, and is an incurable travel junkie.

Read more by Louise Thompson

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