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3 Techniques for Emotional Eating that Never Work

I have one client who, when we meet, always starts our conversations with, “it was a good day,” or “it wasn’t a good day.” What she means isn’t whether she met a friend for tea and felt a good connection, felt productive and happy at work, or enjoyed the weather.

What she means is whether she binged or not.

For many of us, that one factor determines whether we classify a day as “good” or “not good” in our minds.

The thing is, there is more to life than our relationship with food. We all know it, and deep inside we can’t wait to start living that life we were made for, the life of our dreams, where we are actively doing all those things we said we wanted to do at one point or another, crossing off items on our bucket list, living happily with family, friends, being an active part of community.

But we don’t know how. Our relationship with food, however unlikely and unfair it may seem, stands in our way.

We can’t live our ideal life when we are feeling heavy, bloated, stretched-out, unattractive, and numbed out, and we know it.

3 Techniques We Try and Try, That Simply Do Not Work

You probably know how these go ~


#1: Promising to yourself that today (or tomorrow) will be a “good day”

When we are feeling terrible about having just binged, we psychologically try to make ourselves feel better by promising that the next day will be a “good day.” The problem with this is that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, because there is of course a chance, particularly if we are very stressed out or emotional in this period of our lives, that the next day will not be a “good day,” but will bring another binge.

The problem is that, once we get disappointed enough times with our own inability to keep a promise to ourselves, we stop believing in ourselves.

And that is a risk I do not want you to take.

Believing in yourself is something I always want you to have access to, and if you’ve lost it, I want to help you find it again.

One of the secrets of living in harmony and feeling content in day-to-day life is not making promises you can’t keep. Even to yourself.

So right now, I want you to stop promising this to yourself.

Just let the day be what it is, and if you find yourself searching for an answer to whether or not you can count on the next day being a good day, you can just honestly tell yourself that you don’t know.


#2: Micromanaging Your Diet

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it or done it myself. My clients eat a overly-healthy (yes, I said overly-healthy) breakfast, nothing but salad for lunch and maybe some hummus, and then, as soon as they are alone, they binge on whatever it is they truly wanted to eat that day.

They tell me, “but I am such a health-conscious person. Why is this happening to me?”

What’s really happening is that we are trying to atone for our binge eating by being hyper-vigilant, or “really good” at our mealtimes.

That never works.


Remember, back in the podcast “Binge Eating is Not a Dietary Issue,” I told you about how binge eating is not a dietary issue, it’s an emotional issue!

So even though our relationship with food is at play in both, our “nutritional eating” lives and our private “binge eating” lives, we are using food very differently when we eat a meal for nutrition and energy, than when we binge.

When we are eating a meal for sustenance and nutrients ~ and usually in the presence of other people ~ we are perfectly capable of just eating “normally,” with respect to the amount of food, the quality of food, as well as how we eat it. We may even be the most health-conscious of all our friends (and this is not uncommon).

Paradoxically, this in-control, out-of-control loop we find ourselves in includes both opposites: because we use food to comfort ourselves, which feels very “out-of-control,” we then try to make up for it by being overly “in-control” the rest of the times of day.

It’s the “charge” around food, which is really a tension, that both tendencies have in common.

We are either tense because we are too much in control, or we are tense because we are losing control and we know it, and feel we can’t do anything to stop it.

For now, I want you to just explore what it might feel like to relax around food.

To chill and eat.

I know that is a tall order, and I am not asking you to do it. I am asking you to make a space in your mind for that possibility.

Clients come back from Tuscany, or a trip to the South of France, and they say, “I have no idea how I lost 10 pounds. I ate pasta the whole time.”

Some people blame it on the wine. Convenient 🙂 My answer is, you relaxed! You sat down, at a table, relaxed, and ate as much as you wanted, no rush, no demands. Just enjoying.

This is possible for us in our lives. We just need to make it a priority and change a very few things around in order to make time and space for it.

So, for now, just imagine that feeling of sitting down and giving yourself an hour, two hours to eat. As much as you want, with your body relaxed and nothing else to do but enjoy yourself.

What would that feel like?


#3: Beating Yourself Up or “Punishing” Yourself

Sometimes we play these little games with ourselves. We say, if I have a good day (meaning if I don’t binge), I will buy that dress I wanted, or I will go see that movie.

Or the reverse, “if I binge, I won’t see that movie, buy that book, that dress, that new ipad.” Sometimes we do it in really subtle ways, without even knowing it.

Actually this is the most common. It happens all the time.

We were going to finally sign up on a dating site and then we binged.

When a friend asks us, “how is that project going?” (meaning the garden we said we wanted to plant, the book we wanted to start writing, the therapist we wanted to see, the e-course we said we’d breeze through) we say, “I don’t know” or “I guess I didn’t have time yet.”

And then we ask ourselves, what really did happen?

Surely we had plenty of time. But what were we doing during that time?

Ohhhhh, I binged!

I binged and then I felt horrible and of course, while feeling horrible, I am not going to plant a garden, buy a new outfit, or, heaven forbid, create a new online dating account!

What’s really happening is that we are subtly punishing ourselves.

Isn’t it?

Underneath the not feeling good, we feel deeply unworthy of doing something that makes us feel really good, when we just binged and did something so clearly self-destructive.

So, for now, I want you to notice all the little ways in which you punish yourself – and stop.

Not only stop, I want you to rebel against this tendency by actually doing the thing you were going to do anyway, even while you are bloated, heavy, feeling sick, and wanting to disappear. Tell yourself it is an experiment, and sit down at the computer to create that dating account, buy that dress, or go outside and get your hands dirty in garden soil.

I know you don’t feel inspired to do it.
Do it anyway. Do it to teach yourself something.

Do it because doing the other thing is getting a bit old, even though it’s probably still very, very comfy.

And let me know how you feel! I love reading your comments below, so after you try these three techniques, turned on their head, drop me a line.

Also, next week I’ll be talking about how to take it a step further and some things you can do right after ~ or hours after ~ a binge, to feel better when you are still in that “recovery period.” **** Read the article, “What To Do After A Binge”

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Veanna

    You can always tell an expert! Thanks for contributing.

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