Overcoming The Emotional Pitfalls That Trigger Overeating
by Amy Parham, former contestant on The Biggest Loser
I meet thousands of people every year who join our fitness challenges. Many of them struggle with obesity. As I talk to them, I ask them the same question. “When did your weight get out of control?” Almost 100 percent of the time they tell me a story about some sort of trauma that triggered an unhealthy relationship with food. Their stories are different, but with the common thread of tragedy.
Whether due to a death in the family, a sick child, or a broken relationship, the truth is that many times we use food to soothe our souls. Food becomes our drug of choice and we find ourselves casualties of our addiction. We create a prison with our drug because we become unhealthy, overweight, and many times obese. This creates depression, which makes the desire to overeat even greater. As you can see, it is a vicious cycle.
I know this struggle very well. I first began to use ice cream to comfort myself after my parents’ divorce at age 10. It was pretty easy to do because my parents owned a Dairy Queen and I spent many hours of my childhood in the back room of that restaurant. I struggled for most of my adult life battling that addiction. My weight went up and down throughout my teenage years and young adult life.
I managed to avoid becoming obese, but when my youngest son, Rhett, was diagnosed with autism, my need for comfort returned with a vengeance. Many nights I would find myself eating a gallon of chocolate ice cream without thinking twice. I ballooned to 230 pounds and became extremely depressed. I even contemplated suicide in one of my lowest moments. Thank God, I was able to learn some strategies that helped me to overcome this cycle and go from the “fat” girl to the “fit” girl!
Here are the top three strategies I learned that helped me get off the “emotional overeating” roller coaster.
1. Exercise — It’s not the tip that makes you jump for joy, but it is one of the things that has helped me manage my emotions more than anything else. My exercise of choice is running, because I can put on my iPod and get lost in my own little world. You may like to walk briskly with a friend, or swim. The point is that exercise produces positive endorphins that resemble the feelings you get from eating those addictive foods. It keeps your stress levels down. This is good because when you are stressed, you reach for food to calm down. Exercise eliminates that need.
2. Trading behaviors — If you notice a particular time of day when you are most tempted to eat (mine is a night), make sure you are busy at that time doing something that doesn’t involve food. We use food as a way to unwind from an emotional day, but if we find a different way to relax, we can combat that desire. Read a book, take a long bath, or go to the gym. We often get in cycles out of habit, but if we change our activities and break the cycle, we will be more successful.
3. Find healthy replacements — There are times when you are just gonna want to veg out in front of the TV and eat. If you know this is the case, make sure you always have junk out of the house and plenty of healthy replacement snacks. Some of my favorites are veggies and hummus, frozen grapes, yogurt, almonds, blue corn tortilla chips and salsa, and cut up fruit. This way if you do snack, at least you are putting good fuel into your body.
Use these strategies, and see if they won’t help you overcome the pitfalls of emotional eating!