Ick, binging. That awful thing that happens and derails our diets and healthy eating streaks. We never really know when they’re going to happen, so we always have to wait and anticipate the worst. Then when they finally happen we just, you know, accept it…
What if I told you, you don’t have to accept it? (Well, at least not unless you want to.) This isn’t coming from some judgmental space either. Yes, you’re going to overeat every now and then because life can be like that, imperfect. But what if I told you, you had a CHOICE? Each and every time you get yourself into one of these situations you could have the ability to make an empowered DECISION about whether or not you want to go through with the binge and that should have no effect on the perfectly valuable person we both know you already are today.
My aim here is to teach you how to dissect the differences between emotional and physical hunger and emotional and physical satisfaction as well as teach you how to use this knowledge to get your mind into a space where you can make empowered choices FOR YOURSELF with regard to emotionally triggered binges…
FIRST, LET’S DEFINE A FEW THINGS:
Emotional hunger is hunger that originates in the mind and is brought on suddenly by a need to satisfy emotional triggers like sadness, anxiety, boredom, and stress through continuous mindless consumption of large amounts of food or drink until the emotional need dissipates.
Physical hunger is hunger that often originates form the abdomen, is gradual, and is triggered by your body to maintain physical operation until nutritional goals are met.
In order to circumvent emotional hunger, a person must strive to maintain emotional satisfaction with their life. Emotional satisfaction occurs when a person is so emotionally fulfilled that triggers like anxiety, sadness, boredom, and stress do not ultimately result in an emotional eating frenzy. People can obtain emotional satisfaction in a number of ways:
- Reading a good book
- Spending quality time with a loved one (family member, friend, or pet)
- Venting your feelings in a journal or to a voice recorder
- Watching your favorite movie or show
- Taking a bubble bath or a hot shower
- Playing your favorite game
- Doing something off of your bucket list
- Moving (walking, running, dancing, etc)
- Listening to your favorite music
- …or whatever works for you!
Physical satisfaction occurs when all your physical fueling and nutritional needs are met so your body operates without experiencing tiredness, weakness, or pain. One good way to obtain physical satisfaction is to simply listen to your body and EAT SOMETHING.
The methods I recommend the most for managing both emotional satisfaction and hunger are the ones that give you time to really FEEL the emotion and assess what’s really going on in your mind, but distract your body physically from the food around you. Venting to a voice recorder works really well if you follow it up with a walk and some meditation or simply just cleaning around the house. These menial tasks are superb when it comes to distracting your brain from the emotional hunger, while at the same time giving you an opportunity to assess the true origin of your emotional distress.
As noted above, a key tool in combating emotional hunger, however, is TIME. Unlike physical hunger, emotional hunger can be quelled without consuming calories. Unfortunately, the easiest and the quickest way people have found to satisfy emotional cravings without actually satisfying the actual emotional need is the consumption of massive amounts of food at once, a binge. This is emotional hunger at play. It works, but only until the next binge or mindless eating frenzy. And you can bet that the previous emotional binge will contribute to the continued negative feelings and lack of emotional fulfillment that will trigger the next emotional binge.
HOW DO WE CONQUER THIS PROBLEM?
The most important thing to remember in these situations is that YOU. ARE. HUMAN. You will make mistakes and that’s a perfectly human way of being. Having some AWARENESS of why your thoughts create these feelings, which create these actions might help you catch on the next time you feel yourself in an emotional rut. You’ll know that essentially you can chose the easy way out (eating) or the initially hard way out (a fulfilling physical distraction until your mind is able to manage its way past its stress).
You have to remember to give yourself permission to walk away from painful situations until you can address them with a clear head, too. This may take minutes or hours. Know that your mental and physical health are extremely important and do not sacrifice either one for the other. You can CHOOSE to save both. All you have to do is recognize when you’re in a situation that is pushing you toward emotional hunger. Once you’ve recognized the situation, exit it by doing something you love or simply walking away to pass the time until you no longer find the choice to eat that appealing. It’s that simple! Of course, this only works if you’ve already satisfied your PHYSICAL hunger. You will not win a battle between yourself and your physical and emotional hunger at the same time. They’ll essentially begin feeding off of each other and there’s no rectifying that EXCEPT through eating.
COMBATING EMOTIONAL & PHYSICAL HUNGER
Time is truly the best medicine when combating emotional eating, but what about the situations where someone is dealing with both emotional and physical hunger. There’s no way you’re NOT going to eat in that situation. So, what is the solution?
The solution is to always, always strive for physical satisfaction above all else. You have to eat. Period. It is imperative that we all eat enough to prevent deep physical hunger. That means eating regularly and not fasting for too long of periods of time. When you combine physical stress with emotional stress, that is a recipe for ABSOLUTE DISASTER. You can fight half the battle simply by eating three square meals a day and even a couple snacks, whatever works for you. Just make sure you make feeling hungry a thing of the past as much as you possibly can when it comes to combating feelings of emotional stress.
AN EMPOWERED CHOICE IS A GOOD CHOICE
There will be times when you can’t simply walk away or go to your room and start tidying though. There will be times when you cannot do anything to change your current circumstance and pass the time. Instead of throwing your hands up in the air and gorging on that chocolate cake, appreciate this opportunity to learn to sit with those negative feelings. Learn to combat them by simply just, being. It’s rough at the beginning, but the more times you have the opportunity to do it and you take that opportunity, the stronger your resistance muscle becomes, the less likely those emotions hurt each and every time you experience them from now on.
You know that they’re just feelings created by your thoughts, which happen to be negative. You aren’t under attack. You aren’t going to die. This is just pain created by your head. CHOOSE to fight it if you can. If you can’t, that’s OK, maybe next time. Just remember not to judge yourself for the empowered choices you make. Whatever choice you make, make sure you do it from a stance of power and not overwhelm. Own your decision before you make it, no matter what that decision ultimately is. If you’re going to binge, do it for you because you want to do it and not from a place of weakness. This promotes a positive outlook on the decision and on your life in general, preventing those repercussive binges.
So, the next time you feel yourself about to enter the throes of an emotional binge, remind yourself this is just your mind seeking emotional fulfillment in the quickest way possible. Know that food is not the only way to fulfill and keep these needs fulfilled. And, most importantly, remember not to judge yourself no matter what choice you decide to make.
- Emotional dissatisfaction triggers emotional hunger, which triggers mindless binge eating.
- Being able to make a choice to binge or not binge from a place of strength CAN prevent future binges because it doesn’t deplete emotional satisfaction.
- The best ways to combat emotional hunger are to eat regularly and to find a way to pass time physically until your mind is able to properly assess the offending emotional distress. This can be in the form of something you like doing or as simple as going for a walk and meditating.