Stop Emotional Eating by Learning from Your Childhood

Can you remember the first time you used food to Feed Your Feelings?

Information is power.  We need to understand when the habit of using food  to feed our feelings first started. We need to understand why the habit started in order to break it.

On the tv drama, This is Us, Chrissy Metz’s character, Kate, reminisces about her childhood a lot. In one scene, the family is on vacation and Kate’s mother points out that all of Kate’s favorite moments during their trip revolved around food.

stop emotional eating

This  got me to thinking about my own childhood. I was trying to remember at what point I started turning to food for my main  source of fun. I think it started when I hit puberty and started getting curves. Suddenly the major topic of conversation in my house was whether or not my clothing choices were “appropriate”. Modesty was  a huge topic in my house and it became increasingly difficult to please my parents in this area with my ever changing, ever expanding body.  So I started avoiding activities to reduce the number of conversations I had to have about what I was wearing. I didn’t want to worry about what to wear so I just stopped doing things like going to parties. But opting out of social engagements presented a new problem. Once I started eliminating activities because I was fat, I slowly had nothing in my life to turn to for relief from the hard stuff. I had no way to reward myself when I aced a test. When I got a bad grade or had a fight with someone, I didn’t have anything fun to do to take my mind off of it or put me in a better mood. So, I ate.

I think the last straw was when I stopped swimming.  I loved to swim. I mean L.O.V.E.D. There was a point in my childhood where I was in the water more than I was on dry land. And for whatever reason I was able to ignore how I looked in a  swimsuit for most of my childhood.  I didn’t care. Or at least I didn’t care more than I cared about swimming. I mean, I was on the diving team for crying out loud. That means I participated in a sport that required me to stand in front of a crowd in all my glory high up in the air on display. That’s how much I loved being in the water. And yet,  I managed to let even that passion slip away.
As sad as these facts are, it’s healing to admit them. It’s a necessary step to curing your emotional eating. The first time I was ever able to control my emotional eating at all was when someone suggested that I write down how I felt every time I claimed I was hungry.  Acknowledging our feelings is the only cure to healing our emotional eating problem.  But our feelings go much deeper than the day to day. Many of them stem from way back in our childhood. And so do our habits.  That is why we have to take some time to recall our past and try to figure out the first time we started using food to soothe ourselves. And then we need to come to terms with that truth. Only then do we have a shot at controlling  this immensely strong habit of emotional overeating.
I’ve taken the liberty of writing down 4 questions for you to ask yourself to help you retrace your history and face your demons. I will warn you. This investigation will be tough.  It may require some difficult conversations with your parents or your siblings.  You will have to revisit old memories that may be painful.  You may find that this exercise makes you want to overeat.  lol. But stick with it. It will be hard but all real change usually is.

4 questions to help you finally take control of your emotional eating habit:

1. When did you first identify yourself as overweight or fat? We don’t just wake up one day and decide we are fat. Someone introduces the word to us. Someone puts the idea in our head that we aren’t good enough. We start to believe there is something wrong with our bodies. It is very important to your weight loss success that you think back and pinpoint the exact moment when this happened. I’ll bet you’ll find that your yo-yo dieting and overeating habits began shortly after that.
2. What did you used to do for fun that you no longer do? Do you remember why you ever stopped? You might find like I did that the one thing you loved to do most, the one thing that brought you the most joy, you cut out of your life because of your weight.  If you could find the courage to bring it back you might find that the joy of that one activity is enough to fill the void that you’ve been trying to fill with food all this time.
3. When did you first start using food as your main source of fun? At some point you decided food was your friend. Thus began your love/hate relationship with food. Recalling that moment when you first started doing that could make you realize why you overeat now and the next time you get ready to overeat you’ll be more aware of why you feel that way and you’ll be able to stop.
4. Was it a habit in your family growing up to celebrate everything with food? Can you remember any other ways that your family celebrated major events?   You need to understand how deep this habit goes. If feeding your feelings was a habit shared by your entire family then you can start to understand how difficult it will be for you to to
truly break the habit for good. If no one ever taught you how to celebrate life without food well that’s a big hurdle to jump and you need to be aware before you begin.
We can learn to stop feeding our feelings. We are capable of finding other joys in life outside of food. But to get started on the right foot we have to take a moment and retrace our steps and realize how we got hear. Afterall, if we dont learn from our pasr we re doomed to repeat it.
[A lot of my insight about my past came from doing the exercises in this book. This was the book that changed the course of my weight loss journey forever.  You can read that story here.]
What memories did this exercise bring up for you? If you feel comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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