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Emotional Eating: Using food as the problem solver


Food is meant to nourish, fuel and support our bodies. It is a source of our energy. Yet, there is so much more to eating than this simple explanation. In fact, food acts like a drug for many people. Its purpose becomes distorted by emotion. Most can relate that sometimes acting on emotion gets us into trouble, and emotional eating means trouble for the waistline.

How many times per day do you think about food even when you aren’t hungry? Emotional eating is responding to feelings like stress, grief or even celebration with high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar, high-carbohydrate foods with little nutritional value. These comfort choices never come in small doses, rather, the more the better. This habit can lead to obesity and mental health issues, as well as food addiction.

Eating your way through a breakup. Gorging on calories to make the stress of your job go away. Binging on carbs to offset your boredom. Shoveling sugary treats because you deserve to celebrate your promotion. These are all forms of food abuse, be the cause sad or happy.

Control gets lost. Eating becomes unconscious and mindless. It’s easy to pick at food because it is in front of you. We actually look forward to eating, and sometimes we don’t even know how else we would reward ourselves be it not for a treat. It’s human nature to avoid feelings, especially those we don’t want to deal with. Sometimes hating your own body, leads to doing what you know is bad for it. This is a form of self-punishment. When we don’t take care of ourselves and are sleep deprived or wait too long in between meals, picking up the fork and going back for more is very easy to do.

We can’t out-exercise these bad choices. We can’t make the true problems go away with these decisions. I always say to my clients don’t ever use the word “can’t,” but in this case this is the truth of the matter. Emotional eating is only a temporary solution. Why the eating took place will still be there after the last bite. There are so many other ways to feel good besides eating. Stop feeling powerless to food. Let the feeling pass.

Avoiding feelings with food to subside emotions can even become an unconscious habit. Find what triggers you. Give yourself five minutes to just breathe, sit with the situation, then decide what the best course of action is. Being self-destructive is never a good plan. Don’t put yourself in situations that make food the answer. Go for a walk instead of hitting the drive-thru. Phone a friend, because hey, you won’t be able to talk with your mouth full. Your body needs quality fuel and your gas tank isn’t meant to be filled with dollar menu items. The Lifestyle of the FIT and Healthy finds the positive in every situation and uses food to help their body feel, look and act its best.

Megan Johnson McCullough is an NASM Master Trainer and Instructor who owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY’s Fit. She holds an M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science and is currently in a program to receive her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance. She’s a professional natural bodybuilder, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, Senior Fitness Specialist, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Wellness Coach. Her goal is to help every BODY become the best version of themselves.