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How to Stop Emotional and Binge Eating: Tips and Strategies

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

I have a special interest in stress & emotional eating, so I asked one of my best friends to share her story. Here is how she finds her way back to healthy, mindful eating.

Overeating can be tough.

If you struggle with it, you are not alone. I am an overeater, I've always been.

Education plays a big role in it, at least it does for me.

"Finish your plate!" – my parents said. Our family lunches would start at noon and finish at 6 pm.... 7 courses meals... easy.

When you say that to people who've never experienced it, they say: "Were you still hungry by the 4th dish? I would have felt stuffed!"

These people don't understand what it is to have an endless pit as a stomach.

Of course, you are not hungry, but you were trained not to listen to your hunger cues. You are eating because someone took the time to cook and invited you to their home... It would be rude not to eat.

Cooking is a way to show your love in many cultures.

Typically, the more I love you, the more I will enjoy cooking new recipes when you come over. And of course, there will be quantity because if we finish a dish, it means there wasn't enough of it... Right? 🤪

It all comes down to giving, loving and nurturing. Coming from a southern French/Italian background, it is a cultural thing for us. We love to cook for others and let's be honest, we love our food. Healthy food but still... quantity matters.

Let's fast forward a little bit because WHY we love to prepare and eat these multi courses meals matter. More often than not, the same people who plan these are the ones who didn't have access to a lot of variety and quantity of food when growing up. They are kind of making up for it.

I believe it is important to know why we are overdoing it so we can deal with the root cause. That can explain why our parents are overeating, but what about us?

If you live in a "developed" country, you have access to all the food you need and you probably always have. I believe that the way your parents educated you and the habits they "forced" on you is hard to change. Hard but not impossible.

I always struggled with overeating. I could sit at the family table and eat the multi courses meals while drinking wine even if I wasn't hungry. I would eat out of respect and love for others. It felt uncomfortable afterwards and I usually needed a nap. But in the moment, I was eating whatever was served to me without thinking twice about it.

Again, a respect & love thing.

Now that I have been living on my own for a while, I can see how harmful that is. I overeat without noticing it because my hunger cues are gone. Let me rephrase this: I don't listen to it.

For years I was in the vicious circle of overeating and working out to make up for it. I would binge on everything that would come my way: a full cake, entire bars of chocolate, bags of chips... you name it. As long as it was fatty, salty or sugary. And most of the time I would go from something sugary to salty, back to sugary... until I felt so stuffed that I wanted to sleep it off.

I would overeat while being alone because I was ashamed. Ashamed of not being able to control me. I have always been a strong-minded person. My friends and family describe me as such. So no, I couldn't share this weakness with them.

Not talking about it makes it worse, believe me.

I was using food to overcome a void. I was mainly feeling lonely and dealt with it the only way I knew how. As I always loved working out, I would burn the calories off but as we all know:

You can't outrun a bad diet.

So, there were days when I would not eat anything; others when I would overeat... A vicious circle.

That ended when I got to live with my ex-boyfriend for 4 years. I guess emotional stability was what I needed. I would overeat from time to time... I was eating as much as my 100kg and 1.96 meters ex... but never like I did while being single (or in crappy relationships).

Overeating is indeed a way to cope and make up for emotional struggles.

Why am I sharing the relationship story with you? Because most of the time, overeating is linked to emotional imbalance. Staying in bad relationships brings your confidence down, you devalue yourself being on a constant roller coaster.

It took me years to understand this, but ultimately YOU are the one setting up the bar on how others treat you. It is YOUR responsibility and choice to set it as high or as low as you want.

If you don't have standards and boundaries, the people you'll let into your life will eventually set them for you.

It takes work, dedication and courage but it is worth it. I am still working on that by the way. 😉

Breaking the overeating cycle is hard and it can come back anytime. After years of not overeating, I thought I was done with it. I was eating right: whole foods and balanced meals 99% of the time. Then I became single... Shit happens folks!

And you guessed it... After a few months, it started again. I now feel like in a rabbit hole most days. And that's the thing.

The problem with overcoming overeating and then going back to it is that it lowers your confidence and it makes it so much harder to battle it again.

Because you failed. I failed. So what's the solution?

These are the things I am doing:

  1. Talking about it with my close friends and/or with people who are experiencing it;

  2. Dealing with the reason why I overeat (the root cause);

  3. Being kind to myself and knowing it's ok to screw up;

  4. Slowly going back to portion control and not going drastic with calorie counting and restriction. It works for some people but if you are anything like me, it will just make you feel restricted and you will probably end up feeling stressed and the circle will start again.

If you are trying to overcome overeating for the first time, I would suggest finding alternatives to your processed comfort foods, making homemade cakes when you feel like having some and concentrating on the balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients in your meals.

It sounds basic, but it works long-term.

So, take baby steps and try to work on the root cause. That's what worked for me in the past and I believe that could help you too.

Comment below, share your story and let's overcome this together. ♥️


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