Have you ever felt so full you couldn’t move? Had such a stressful day you went home and ate a box of cookies or a bag of chips?
Sometimes eating has very little to do with your actual hunger.
Eating can be directly related to emotions and this is what emotional eating is.
Our emotions can have a powerful influence on our actions, especially eating. Many people use food to self medicate.
When my client Jenny walked in the door for the first time she felt out of control and would eat until she couldn’t move. She was 60 lbs overweight. She followed these steps and after 6 months she felt her life change .
Here Are The 3 Steps to Learn Your Hunger Signals And Stop Emotionally Eating
Step 1: Become aware of your true hunger signals
First, drink a glass of water before a meal, this will help you see if you are dehydrated and need to hydrate, or if it’s true hunger that you’re feeling.
I then teach my clients to learn their hunger signals by using “ The Hunger Scale”. The hunger scale allows you to learn to only eat when they are truly hungry. If you would like a copy of this, sign up for my free toolkit and you will have access to this and many other useful tools.
If you prefer to create your own, you can draw a line on a piece of paper from 1-10. For example If you rank 1, you would be so hungry you can eat everything in sight. If you ranked 10, you are so full you cannot move. You ideally want to stay in the middle of the scale.
Write down your hunger signals beside each meal to start noticing your patterns. Are there certain times of the day you tend to over eat? Do you skip meals altogether. Write down what you notice about yourself for 7 days.
Start tracking your hunger signals for 7 days and see how it goes!
Step 2. Become aware of exactly which emotions drive you to eat
Now that you have tracked your hunger signals for 7 days, we will add in the next part of the exercise. It is time to add in the emotions before and after your meals.
Continue ranking your hunger levels and add it the emotions to discover exactly which emotions drive you to eat.
Next, notice which emotions you experience at each meal, before and after you eat. Are you bored? Sad? Angry? Lonely? Maybe even happy?
This may take some time to get use to. You will need to learn which emotion you are feeling, especially if you are out of practice. When you start paying attention to your emotions you will start noticing them. Be honest with yourself without beating yourself up.
If you are using the hunger scale from my toolkit you will notice there is a space to write down your emotions. Fill this part in before and after each meal so you can start learning, which emotions are driving you to emotionally eat.
If you are creating your own hunger scale write down the emotion beside each meal beside where you wrote your level of fullness.
Do this for another 7 days. Feel free to reach out if you need any support.
Step 3: Learn to stop punishing yourself every time you eat something that you are trying to avoid.
Now that you have done the exercise for the last 14 days, look over which emotions have caused you to emotionally eat. This is not the time to beat yourself up! It’s the time to be an observer to yourself and notice your patterns. When we notice your patterns we can then work on changing them.
Over the next 7 days write down the negative ways you speak to yourself. Beside each negative statement write down how you would respond to a friend if they spoke about themself like that.
So there you have it. In 21 days you can start learning your hunger signals and start seeing which emotions have caused you to emotionally eat.
Remember, although food feels like your enemy at times, you have brought it into your life as a coping mechanism. It actually helped you to get you where you are today. Let’s start breaking old patterns and free yourself from emotional eating.
Natalie Shay is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach specializing in emotional eating. She struggled with her own weight for 20 years. She finally learned to stop dieting and lost 75 lbs. In 2007 she became a Registered Psychotherapist to help emotional eaters stop turning to food for comfort and lose weight without dieting. She helps support her clients and guides them to meet their goals to stop dieting and start living.
Natalie can be reached here