Updated: Mar 12, 2021
I've been a fitness & nutrition coach for many years now, and I often hear my new clients say this phrase during our first nutrition consultation: “sometimes I eat when I am just bored. I know I shouldn’t eat that pack of chips or candy, I know I am not hungry, but I can’t help it”. Sounds familiar?
To help my clients on a deeper level I had to dig up some books on behavioral psychology, which helped me understand what causes this strange eating pattern.
I found out that boredom occurs when you have suppressed emotions, bad or good ones. Instead of letting yourself go through emotions that rise up during the day, you push them down into your subconscious mind, which makes you feel empty and bored afterwards.
This feeling of boredom often triggers emotional eating, or as I call it: "eating to fill up a bottomless hole inside".
With that said, reason #1 is boredom
To resolve this you need start paying more attention to what you feel during the day. Ask yourself these questions:
1) Am I stressed right now? What is the worst that can happen? What can I do to fix it?
2) Am I being angry, sad, happy, jealous (and so on), why? What triggered this emotion?
In any good psychology book the author starts a mental health journey with making sure you first learn how to recognize and express your emotions in a non-violent way.
Here is the strategy that has helped me to express negative emotions in a nonviolent communication:
Don't assume you'll be met with a negative response. Assuming that expressing your emotions will cause conflict is part of the problem.
Use "I feel" statements without justifying them.
Express what you want before what you don't want.
I also read that one of the reasons why some of us cannot understand and act out our own emotions is because our parents could have forbid us to express anger or frustration from a young age. So now you need to undo the type of parenting and allow yourself to feel again.
Another reason why you might overeat today is because you are not in touch with your own body. That can happen if you had some kind of trauma, which you have never let go of. Especially if that was a physical or emotional abuse.
I highly recommend reading this amazing book "Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works", which focuses on nurturing your body rather than on the biology of starvation, and encourages natural weight loss, helping you find the weight you were meant to be.
I found these 10 principles of intuitive eating to be very helpful:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
It's all about balanced nutrition and listening to what your body wants, not just following some blind diet.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant.
3. Make Peace with Food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Scream a loud no to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.
6. Feel Your Fullness
In order to honor your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry.
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
First, recognize that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can, in and of itself, trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement.
8. Respect Your Body
Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are.
9. Movement—Feel the Difference
Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feelthe difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise.
10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.
How to find out if you are emotional eater and you need to fix this issue with a psychologist not nutritionist
If the majority of your diet consists of simple carbs and processed foods (not like bananas, but cookies, chocolate and chips). Because carbs are building blocks of neurons in your brain and they calm down the nervous system. If most of your calories you eat during the evening hours instead of the morning. Because anxiety raises from 5 pm and can last until 5 in the morning. If you eat a lot (big portions), because then blood rushes to your stomach from your head, which creates a feeling of satiety and calmness, that’s how you subconsciously battle your anxiety.
To stop doing these things you first need to stop feeling anxious, angry, frustrated and so on. You need to admit that you have problem on your hands.