Weight Loss Support - Breaking the cycle of "comfort eating"

05-12-2010, 06:35 AM

I found myself going back to comfort foods last night and eating for reasons other than hunger when I was dealing with some emotional issues. I am trying to use food as fuel but I am used to using as it for more than that, for emotional issues too. I am proud of myself because besides recently I have mainly only ate when I have been hungry but I was wondering if other chicks have encountered this eating for comfort/emotional eating and what helps you?

Thank you.

motivated chickie
05-12-2010, 10:16 AM
I don't have an easy answer for you, but to keep on doing what you are doing. When you overeat for emotional reasons, don't beat yourself up and carry on.

Last night, I had one of my mega 2,500 calorie binges (I am recovering from BED) & I wanted to go home and isolate. Instead, I went to a social event and talked to people for a couple of hours.

As you take care of yourself emotionally & eat healthily as separate activities, it does get easier. But for me, I will probably will have occasional binges for the rest of my life. And I don't feel a bit of shame for last night. In the old days, the remorse and self-hate led to more overeating

By the way, an occasional binge will not get you fat. I have managed to lose almost 50 pounds with slip ups and relapses every once in a while. So don't worry about your binge last night in terms of ruining your diet. It won't unless you throw in the towel entirely.

05-12-2010, 10:17 AM
Emotional eating is a big one for me. (no pun intended)

I've found that the exercises in the book "The Four Day Win (http://www.amazon.com/Four-Day-Win-Achieve-Thinner/dp/1594866074)" has really helped me to identify and disassociate myself from some of those emotional triggers. It deals not so much with a diet, but rather how we motivate ourselves (and sabotage ourselves) in any life-change, and gives tools for identifying and dealing with the cycle.

For instance, one of the exercises I go back to over and over again has me identifying the "health dictator" part of me who wants me to stick by a draconian diet/exercise regime, and listen to her. Then identify the "wild child" part of me that wants me to eat enough to take care of myself in situations of famine, flood, and disease, and listen to her. And then to "step back" and observe, and LOVE, both of these parts of me. When I become "the watcher" rather than the dictator or the wild child, I remove myself from the conflict itself. I can more calmly observe and assess both sides, and appreciate both sides, so they are no longer at war in me (at least for that hour or so). But the more I do this, the less I am likely to binge, to eat for no reason, to find myself with a box of Cheezits in hand and not remember getting them, etc.

It sounds pretty touchy-feely, psycho-babble, doesn't it? I was really skeptical when I first began the book (and didn't do the exercises wholeheartedly until my second read-through). But I can't argue with the results. I'm amazed at how much less emotional my eating has become.

05-12-2010, 11:12 AM
I am definitely an emotional eater. I do a great deal of self talk along the lines of "Food will not help this issue. Actually, it may make matters worse. How are you going to feel after you eat this? Better or Worse."

Having an argument with my husband used to trigger big eating binges. It was important for me to realize that I was not punishing HIM with the food but I was punishing ME with the food!

I also need to just get away from the food when feeling emotional by going for a walk or taking a bath.

Blackberry Fields
05-12-2010, 11:15 AM
My problem has always been terrible nutrition and NOT eating regularly (or drinking water), but I have occasionally binged.

I guess it depends what your main emotional trigger is. Mine was boredom. For others it might be sadness or anger or loneliness, etc.

I was thinking just now that I might get a pair of boxing gloves. Pummeling something is not only exercise, but also exorcism. :)

05-12-2010, 03:48 PM
Thanks so much everyone. I'm going to try walking away from the food and asking myself, "how will I feel later?" I'll check out that the book The Four Day Win and thanks for the boxing gloves :D

05-12-2010, 03:59 PM
Emotional eating is a big one for me. (no pun intended)

I've found that the exercises in the book "The Four Day Win (http://www.amazon.com/Four-Day-Win-Achieve-Thinner/dp/1594866074)" has really helped me to identify and disassociate myself from some of those emotional triggers. It deals not so much with a diet, but rather how we motivate ourselves (and sabotage ourselves) in any life-change, and gives tools for identifying and dealing with the cycle.

Just requested a copy from the library! I should have it in a couple days. Thanks for the suggestion. I am definitely an emotional eater.

05-12-2010, 04:14 PM
Something that works for me most of the time is something that Bob Harper talks about in his book "Are You Ready". It's call the Proactive Theory (I think!)

What it is is that when I am having the feelings of eating some crap, I stop and think and I ask myself things like "Why do I want to eat that?", "Do I really want that?", I think about how I am going to feel afterwards (the inevitable guilt). Most of the time it works and I don't make that bad choice, other times it doesn't work at all and I still go to the convenience store and get 3 candy bars and 2 packages of mini donuts. But as long as I stop and think about it, it helps. I also do not beat myself up mentally if I DO binge. I accept it and go over my reasons for being on this journey and try to re-ignite that fire within myself and get passionate about it again.

I have always been a binge eater and an emotional eater. My emotional eating has gotten much better because I have changed things in my life that ended up being negative influences. (i.e. - got a new job - no more stress = happy home life with my son) I also started listening to my body more and got sleep when it was telling me to. I have made some positive changes that have helped me overall in my life.

I have recently realized that I am prone to binge eating when I don't get to the gym enough. If I go 3 days without going to the gym, a disaster is going to happen. I feel my old ways of thinking creeping back and telling me that I deserve to eat what I want because I have been working so hard. "I will just eat (this) or (that) today and then it's back on the horse tomorrow." I can quite literally brainwash myself into thinking that it's ok. I do notice that if I go to the gym and get my calorie burn and then I come home and have a great supper with my son, I am much less likely to snack at night. I may want something, but I make sure to have snacks at home that won't make me feel guilty like flavored rice cakes or a stick of string cheese or an apple.

For me, my exercise and my brainwaves go hand in hand. I have to continue my routine or I will immediately pack my bags and head off to Crazy Town for a nice extended stay.

05-12-2010, 04:37 PM
I have found that, for me, the simplest thing I can do when confronted with emotional or boredom eating is DISTRACTION.

If I can distract myself with something else, then I stop thinking about food. Whether that's going for a walk, studying, an art project, hobby, etc, anything to get my mind onto something else, then I'm set.

Try that, maybe? Go out with the girls or friends, do something you enjoy doing! Maybe you'll learn to do it more often.

And if you slip up, it's no big deal. You can pick up right where you left off!

05-12-2010, 04:47 PM
I have found other things that feel self-nurturing when I'm upset, and used them. Sometimes that's a bath and a book...if I'm overwhelmed, that's what I need. Other times, its a good yoga session or even a good run or kickboxing session, particularly if I'm feeling frustrated or angry...expressing that emotion through my body via exercise is really helpful (added bonus - if I exercise, I have even less desire to eat the "comfort food"). I'll give myself a mani-pedi, put on a face mask, and generally take good care of me.

Or sometimes I put a lot of love and nurturing into preparing a healthy comfort meal...saying to myself, "I am preparing this meal to take good care of my mind AND my body" while making something really delicious that sounds really good to me, but is also healthy.

The point isn't to distract myself from the feeling...I'm genuinely feeling it, and that's OK. I just use non-food ways to acknowledge and soothe it.

05-12-2010, 05:32 PM
Are you able to stop what you are doing & create a sort of pause in your life? For reflecting? Maybe even while still holding the stuff in your hand?

If you can do that, you're in a good place.

Self-talk helps then. You ask yourself: "What am I feeling?" ("Bad" is not specific enough. It's not a multiple choice test question. It's really an essay question.)

If you say, not simply "bad," but (I'll take an example from my own life), "I'm feeling anxious, because I have a piece of writing due, and it's important -- it's a presentation teaching the staff something -- and I'm fearful that it won't measure up to my standards or to the standards of the person I'm handing it in to," then you know what you are feeling & why.

The next question is: "Will putting that food into my mouth solve that problem?"

No, it won't. It won't get the piece of writing written. It won't make me more confident in my writing ability, so that I can finish the assignment. It also will only soothe my anxiety for maybe two minutes, tops. Then I'll be anxious again. BUT ALSO guilty for eating, and beating up on myself for having eaten.

It's a very hard process to go through because you have to actually identify & then think how to meet your emotional needs, rather than unthinkingly meeting all of them through cramming stuff into your mouth.

05-12-2010, 10:06 PM
thanks everyone for the tips and everything. I requested the four day win from the library.

05-15-2010, 02:06 PM
I was doing really well but lately I've been slipping. I have been going to the store and getting junk in the past few days and starting to night eat again. I don't know what's wrong! I'm really concerned cause I was doing great!

05-15-2010, 02:19 PM
Let's rewind a little here. Before you're even at the point of putting the stuff in your mouth, let's get to the point where you are at the store and buying it.

What exactly is your "comfort food"? Can you tell me about it why it attracts you, rather than some other food?

Are you overeating food that is healthy & good for you, or are you choosing food that really has no nutritional value? Each is a slightly different behavior here. Neither is actually a good thing to do. But it may help you understand this problem if you identify just what you are doing.

When you are buying the "comfort food," are you doing it as part of your regular shopping, when you're filling your cart with other things? Can you just not buy it? Tell yourself it's a trigger food & maybe it would be better if you didn't have it around for a while.

Or ... when you feel bad, are you going directly to the store & buying the food you plan to comfort yourself with? Because that's another, completely different behavior.

To stop doing this, you really need to go over the behavior in your own mind, and break it down, moment by moment, so you know exactly what is happening.

The reason being that at any one moment, you can stop it. You can practice stopping it. You can pull yourself out of the tailspin. Really you can. But you need to see clearly exactly what the behavior is & how you are feeling as you go through it.

05-15-2010, 04:19 PM
Thanks for the reply saef,

Sometimes the comfort food is food already in the apartment and I turn to it when I am upset emotionally. Other times, I impulsively or maybe that's not the right word, but I want to go out and buy these treats that I feel I deserve even though I know they are self sabotaging. I talked to my trainer about this and he suggested printing out copies of my goals that I set with him, so I did that. I am going to try that and carrying around the goals with me in my purse, one on my fridge etc. It's hard when the craving for food hits, and I know that a craving only lasts for a short amount of time but when it hits it is really difficult.

I don't buy comfort/trigger foods from the supermarket. I seek them out at the store during the week when I am down or feeling like I want one desparately. It's the coping in the moment of craving that I think I need some help with.


05-17-2010, 10:06 AM
Seabiscuit, have you looked in the Chicks in Control forum? There are a lot of helpful posts there addressing those who are dealing with the bingeing habit.

As a binge eater in recovery -- it's a behavior that is very difficult to overcome sometimes, so I consider myself to continually be in recovery -- I recommend that you read up on this a little more, to arm yourself better against these moments.

Sometimes distraction works. Sometimes meditating works. Or calling up a friend. Or posting here. '

Sometimes you just have to white-knuckle it through & sit there in a kind of mental pain until it passes. In the middle of an overwhelming urge, it's awful, like holding on through a hurricane or some other natural disaster -- but when it's over, you will feel better about yourself than you would, had you given in & binged.

05-17-2010, 10:26 AM

I too battled this problem for many many years and I know exactly what you are talking about...

Now, I have been 100% binge free for almost a full year....

Now, everybody is completely different, but for a long time, I used to try to psychoanalyze myself, taking the approach of trying to sort out my feelings, and I never got anywhere. I am kind of an introspective person, I guess, and I analyzed the causes and reasons absolutely to death and still kept bingeing.

What finally helped me was to learn to ride out the tide. I don't binge on salmon and vegetables. I made a short list of foods that I was going to avoid at all costs: salty snacks, baked goods, sweets, anything that can have butter slathered on it... Then, whenever the craving hit, I just told myself NO, and what's more, what was important for me, I did not feed myself anything else-- no low cal jello, no diet bread, no food at all. I just white knuckled it out.

That was extremely uncomfortable for me. And, in retrospect, it was rather like quitting smoking (I smoked for a few years, way back when...) I felt like I wanted, needed, and had to have something. In the past, when trying to lose weight, I had always tried to substitute a "legal" food for the one that I really wanted-- that always eventually backfired and set me back to binging.

This time, I learned to cope with the wanting feeling by relaxing, distraction, anything but eating. My only "crutch" was sugar free gum. It got MUCH easier over time, and now, I really don't battle the craving. I don't really think about it much any more. I still get that "want something" feeling, but I don't immediately think "feed it".

At the same time, I REALLY did have to revolutionize my life. Somewhere in the process, I realized that NO WONDER I was "rewarding" myself with treats. It was because I was so incredibly self-sacrificing in almost every other area of my life. I did not spend money on myself, I did not carve out time for myself, I did not buy myself clothing, or nice hair cuts, or bubble bath, or time out with friends. So whenever I was feeling sorry for myself I rewarded myself with the old familiar: food.

And, ironically, all that binge food was actually time-consuming, and expensive, so I might as well have rewarded myself in other ways.

I hope you find some of this helpful. I struggled alone and helpless for so long that I was convinced that I was stuck forever, and ironically, it was not as hard to get past it as I thought it would be.

We are here to help.

tomato sunshine
05-17-2010, 08:06 PM
i've been in the bingy mood a lot, too. i try to figure out what i'm craving and why i'm craving it. the next time i go grocery shopping, i try to find healthy substitutes for my common cravings (in addition to my standard healthy staples).

sometimes if i do splurge on junk food, i buy the smallest size possible or bring the rest to work for other people to eat once i've satisfied my craving.

basically, if it's in my house, i *will* binge on it without any good reason...so i am really cautious about what i bring home.