Inspirational videos about Emotional Eating

I was up last night till 2 in the morning, unable to sleep, and started browsing the internet for information about food allergies and food addiction, a topic I've seen pop up on a few other blogs, and I stumbled across some videos on YouTube. The girl in them - Josie - has been doing research into Emotional Eating and was sharing her findings, and everything she said really made so much sense.

So, if like me you're not only trying to shift the excess weight, but also wondering what goes on in your brain to cause you to overeat in the first place, if you're prone to emotional eating and want to understand why, you really should check out these videos. You can find them here:

I really recommend you watch all the videos, but I'll give a quick summary of them here (and this is in my own words, so you might take something slightly different away after watching them):

a) our excess weight initially comes from emotional eating. Once we start trying to lose the weight through dieting, we get stuck in a vicious circle of repression (diet) -> binge eating -> guilt -> more repression...

b) the binges can be curbed by stopping the repressive attitude towards food. To do that, we need to eat more intuitively and let our body decide what it needs to be healthy (instead of strictly calorie counting...) - by eliminating foods we are intolerant to, listening to our bodies' hunger signals, stopping when we're full... the video that touches on this - "Take a Skinny Friend to Lunch Week" - is really interesting as it highlights the differences in the way we - dieters - approach food as opposed to the way naturally skinny people approach food. And I live with a naturally skinny person, so I have plenty of opportunities to study those differences and learn from them!

c) once the binges are curbed, we're basically left with the emotional eating, which stems from a really interesting coping mechanism we learnt in childhood. There are several concepts in this part, which I find absolutely fascinating. One of them is learned helplessness (the experiment with the dogs explains it really well - check out the video for the full explanation), which means that if, in childhood, we learned we were powerless to solve a problem, we will continue, in adulthood, when faced with a similar problem, to believe we are powerless to solve it, without even trying...

The second concept concerns task-oriented and emotion-oriented coping strategies, or as Josie calls them, soothing and solving: when faced with a problem, do you focus on solving the problem, or do you focus on getting rid of the feelings (anxiety, fear, sadness) that the problem provokes in you?

We all have situations in which we are task-oriented: for me, it's stuff like organising a party, managing projects at work, organising holidays... I just analyse the situation, then act to get things done efficiently.

And then there are the situations in which we resort to soothing (emotion-oriented coping). This happens so instinctively that we don't even realise what's happened until we're half way through the cookie jar. We feel helpless (because of learned helplessness) in the situation and don't even try to solve it, we just assume - on an entirely subconscious level - that we can't do anything about it, so we reach for a bag of crisps and a beer (in my case) to soothe the emotions the situation provokes.

Identifying the trigger situations in which we instinctively "soothe" instead of "solve" can really help stop us from emotional eating. I think I do it mostly in inter-personal situation where there's a risk of conflict. I can't stand the idea of telling certain people I'm not OK with their attitude, or don't agree with them, so I avoid the conflict by stuffing my feelings down with food. The other situation in which I comfort eat is when I'm bored. Instead of taking 5 minutes to actually think about all the things that I could be doing (and there are a lot of them!), I panic... and do the one thing I feel "safe" doing: eat.

Some of the other really interesting things I picked up from these videos:
- These mechanisms go back to our childhood and are deeply ingrained. I learned these coping mechanisms during my parents' divorce, when I was 9 years old, the same age Josie was. And she mentions she was taught to diet at age 10. Same here.
- She also makes a link between being brought up by an extremely strict parent and resorting to emotional eating (as a child you are helpless to solve situations when you are brought up that way - the strict parent always decides for you), which also hits home for me. I also think a lot of it had to do with the fact that neither of my parents actually wanted to know what I was feeling and if I was OK. I had all these emotions and no one to talk to about them. So with no way to address and resolve my feelings, I stuffed them down with food.

I hope you find this useful... I'm going to pay much more attention to any triggers that have me reaching for the cupboard or fridge, and I'm also going to try to be more intuitive in my eating patterns, I will keep planning and tracking what I'm eating, but will eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full and won't beat myself up when I go over points...

If you stumble across any more interesting articles or videos about this, please post them in the comments!

Editing to add: I just found Josie's blog on blogger, if you want to follow her :)

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