Karin has struggled with food for as long as she can remember. Intellectually, she knows that food is not going to make her feel better about herself, but she just can't seem to quit eating. Every morning Karin starts out with the best intentions, but by the end of the day, she's munching on sweets, pizza, cheeseburgers, and ice cream. Over the past year, she's been feeling more out of control then ever and she's gained an additional 30 pounds.

Karin really wants to get healthy, look good, and feel good. She believes that losing weight would help her gain self-esteem and keep her from criticizing herself. So she decides to go on another diet and end her out-of-control eating. Karin seriously follows her diet and resists the temptation to overeat. She goes to the gym and tries to keep a positive attitude.
Her willpower to avoid overeating works for a while, but soon her compulsion to eat gets stronger and stronger. It's all she can think about. One day, on her drive home from work, she goes through a fast food drive through window and orders a double meat cheeseburger, a large order of fries, and chocolate shake. Now that her willpower is broken and she's blown the diet, her cycle of overeating begins all over again. Karin begins to think that she's just not strong enough to meet her goals.

Are You An Emotional Eater?
In the story above, Karin has not yet identified herself as having an emotional relationship with food. She doesn't consciously understand that she is eating to cope with uncomfortable life situations, block out emotions, handle stress, or deal with negative thoughts and feelings. Going on a diet isn't the answer she's looking for because eating is an effect, not her underlying problem.
Why doesn't Karin realize that she uses food to manage her emotions? Ironically, emotional eating is not always easy to identify. When people are engaged in emotional eating they are often not aware of their emotions. Emotional eaters will often say, "I don't eat because I'm sad or lonely, I eat because like to eat."

If you have been frustrated with your inability to get a handle on food or weight, you may be dealing with more than just a love of food. If any of the following statements sound like they could apply to you, then it's likely you are struggling with emotional eating.

  • You find yourself eating when you are not really hungry.
  • You eat when you are stressed.
  • You use food for reward.
  • You eat to soothe your feelings.
  • You eat to distract yourself from uncomfortable thoughts.
  • You continue eating beyond the point of feeling full, or until you feel sick.
  • You cycle through dieting, binge eating, and remorse.
  • You feel out of control with food.
  • You eat in secret.
  • You feel hopeless.
  • You hide or stockpile food.
  • You eat to escape from stress, worries, or to comfort yourself.
  • You have feelings of guilt or remorse associated with overeating.
  • You have an inability to recognize the reason for eating.
  • You never feel satisfied, no matter how much is eaten.
  • You have obsessive thoughts about food.
  • You have difficulty identifying your feelings and needs.

Emotional eating is not about food; it is a coping tool for handling life, stress, emotional conflicts, and problems of daily life. If you haven't yet succeeded in achieving your goal to end the struggle with food, realize it's not because of a lack of desire, effort, or intelligence. It's not because you are lazy or unmotivated. Instead, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that diets don't help you understand and resolve the emotional eating reasons you turn to food when you aren't hungry.

As long as you use food to cope with feelings and emotions, you won't be able to achieve or maintain your desired weight loss. Identifying your behaviors as emotional eating is a first step in overcoming the problem. Once you notice your coping strategy of using food is no longer working, you can begin to move beyond believing diets are the cure, and begin a new journey to learn different ways of effectively managing life stressors without food

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Annette Colby, RD can help you take the pain out of life, turn difficult emotions into joy, release stress, end emotional eating, and move beyond depression into an extraordinary life! Annette is the author of Your Highest Potential and has the unique ability to show you how to spark an amazing relationship with your life! Visit www.AnnetteColby.com to access hundreds of content filled articles and sign up for a Fr'ee subscription to Loving Miracles! newsletter.

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