Mindless emotional eating may seem like nothing more than filling the time and getting a little relief from another stressful moment in life. You just want something that tastes good to take the bitterness out of life.
But, when it happens again and again and you feel guilty about it, that’s a recipe for not feeling well at all.
We all have needs, such as shelter, work, transportation of some sort, and of course food at its most basic level as a fuel source.
Our more vague needs that make us human like love, companionship, a sense of purpose and belonging, a sense of feeling calm and peace, to know how to manage your emotions, etc. These needs are more difficult to quickly identify.
They will slowly bubble up to the surface and make their presence known. And when impulse takes hold, convincing yourself to change direction is nearly impossible.
Things like reaching for the candy on your co-worker’s desk while talking about a stressful client meeting makes the candy is a pleasant contrast to the unpleasant feelings of frustration.
Mindless emotional eating is one way your impulses call attention to the need to be more present, more conscious in your life.
Take the time to pay attention to what really matters.
Here are 5 possible unmet needs that lead to mindless emotional eating along with some options to get your needs met in other ways.
1. Connection. Find a community of other people who are a positive influence.
Creating this type of community, if you don’t already have it, can be one of the most important ways to stop mindless emotional eating.
As you work on changing your mindset, habits and learn to regulate your emotions so you can work with them, you might find that you need to be around people who are also on the same path.
It’s energizing to have a conversation with another person who shares your interests, is open to learning and looks toward the future with hope.
How does this fit when maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with food?
Maybe you’re into taking a photography class, joining a quilting guild, taking a painting course, going antiquing with a friend, joining a sailing club, taking a meditation? course, or anything else you might be interested in that is creative, positive, or growth-enhancing.
Creating new connections and being around people who are learning and others who are sharing their skills and talents is inherently life-giving.
Being around others who have hope for the future, no matter if it’s learning one new brush stroke or how to change a sail faster or just having a conversation with a friend who is curious about life changes, the type of vibe goes from one of being stuck to one of possibility even if you don’t have the answers right now.
2. Kindness and self-compassion
When mindless emotional eating takes hold, the most common response is to criticize, find fault and withhold self-compassion. Since you’re already feeling bad about yourself this can lead to the never-ending cycle of emotional eating, restriction, and denial of enjoyable foods and then more emotional eating when something else happens.
Kindness and self-compassion toward yourself allow you the opportunity to gain perspective, assess what worked and what didn’t so you can adjust and move forward with more useful self-knowledge.
Kindness and self-compassion give you the energy and perspective you need to make the changes you need to make.
3. A break from distraction, anxiety, the busyness of life.
Everyone needs a break sometimes. This doesn’t mean that you need to wait until vacation time to get the space you need. Our attention is pulled in so many different directions that it’s often difficult to get off the fast-paced speedway of modern life.
Sometimes unplugging helps you to get the space you need to deal with challenges as they are, not the emergencies you might be lead to believe.
Slow down, consider what you need. Give yourself the gift of time so you can figure out what you need. The food will still be there, if you still want it you can eat it. Allow yourself the opportunity to figure out what you really need. You might be surprised at what you find.
4. Acceptance of where you are while keeping your focus on hope for the future.
Acceptance does not mean giving up on your goals. Acceptance means being right where you are right now and while remaining thoughtful about future decisions.
Acknowledge that you are working. Part of working is knowing when to rest. Allow yourself time to intergrade the changes you’re making.
When you’re able to be present and use your time as a respite, you’ll have the energy to focus and rebuild your enthusiasm for your next goal.
5. Transformation in your relationship with food.
Nourishment, how you eat to sustain your energy and satisfaction is the key ingredient to permanently stopping mindless emotional eating.
This is where your change in mindset brings you the peace you need to stop being led by impulse. And stop the feelings of self-betrayal, body shame, being overwhelmed, and just plain not feeling good.
Conscious eating gives you a framework for transforming your relationship with food.
You can enjoy food, maintain healthful goals, feel good about what and how you eat, feel good about your body, respect your need for movement, honor physical activity, and grow your self-esteem in a contentment with you and your life.
Find out more about Conscious Eating and access many other tools at consciousmindbody.com