Monday, February 18, 2013

Emotional Eating Post-Divorce

Some of us eat when we’re upset post-divorce, others, not so much. I’m addressing the former, AKA “emotional eaters.” You just made it through Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it wasn’t your happiest. Did you drown your sorrows, boredom or anger in a bag of chips and salsa, a gallon of ice cream or an entire chocolate cake? Many would call this emotional eating. Not me, and here’s why.
Ever notice how you suddenly feel like eating something when you walk into your kitchen? You don't have to be sad, mad or bored. The eating triggers are all there for you: the fridge, the cabinet with the chips, the bowl on the counter. They call to you, eat something; you know you want to. When you have down-time at the office, aren't you more likely to grab a snack than when you're flat out, trying to make a deadline? There are eating triggers at the office as well: the break room, the drawer where you keep your emergency stash of goodies. I call this mindless eating, as compared with mindful eating which I will recommend shortly.
I'll wager that you know some people clean when they're upset. Do we call them "emotional cleaners?" No, because people who clean when they're upset also tend to clean a lot when they're not upset. They clean mindlessly when nothing needs cleaning, about which everyone who lives with them will complain endlessly. Eating works the same way. In other words, you eat mindlessly.
I’m betting that if you eat when you’re upset you also eat at other times that you’re not actually hungry. You may eat without even considering whether you're hungry. You probably don't notice when you're full, or if you do, you don't stop. I'm not a huge fan of pejorative labels, like "emotional eating." It makes it a thing that you have, like a disease. It is important to recognize, however, that a survey of psychologists  identified emotional factors as interfering with diet attempts.
If you want to address the factors that undermine eating too much, you have to be more mindful about your eating. Mindful eating revolves around eating when you're hungry, slowly savoring the experience and stopping when you're full. With practice you will learn to consider, before that first bite, whether it's the smart thing to do at that moment. With practice you will learn to enjoy what you're eating and notice when you've eaten enough. With practice you will learn to make good choices. Instead of eating chips, maybe your time would be better spent looking for your date for next Valentine's day.