Why do we raid the fridge when we are feeling down? Why do we still comfort eat after a bad day at work?
I had a phone call the other day from a prospective client asking how I helped people with weight loss. She said “I’ve been going to a slimming organisation for 10 months and I’ve lost 3 stone but I’m still comfort eating. I haven’t changed my behaviours”
She said ”I still raid the fridge when I’ve had a bad day at work, or I’m feeling fed up. I still binge when I’m feeling down. I don’t know why I do it. Can you help me?”
This enquiry came from someone who was introduced to me through a word of mouth referral. Always a good starting point as they should already have dispelled any misgivings thay may have had.
We use food in a number of different ways:
When we eat, particularly, sweet tasting foods or foods with a mix of fat and sugar we feel more relaxed, less ‘on guard’. We like that feeling so we want more of it.
‘Comfort’, ‘stress’ or ‘emotional’ eating is when we know we are deliberately using food to self-medicate: to dampen down uncomfortable emotions, to lift our mood and feel better. People don’t like to experience unpleasant or unhappy emotions and the physical sensations that accompany them.
Food may have been used as a reward in your family for being a good girl or boy. Food may be associated with special occasions like birthdays. Perhaps you were from a family where food was scarce or felt you were in competition with brothers and sisters to get your fair share. Were you given sweets when you fell and hurt yourself? These start to make the links between feeling good and food. But it starts earlier than that.
We build a bond with our mother or father when, as babies, we are fed by them. We experience feelings of safety and security when we are held and fed. When we comfort eat we are trying to recreate that sense of comfort we had as a baby. Unfortunately, the extra food we eat adds to our discomfort by increasing our weight. We then feel guilty that we’ve eaten the cake or chocolate or just more of anything. We head into the cycle of feeling guilty because we’ve eaten and then eating because we feel ‘bad’.
Once you understand what the underlying problem is, then, as with this client, I used a variety of techniques that I have built up over the years to help address the issue. Hypnosis, nlp, cognitive behaviour therapies and mindfulness can all help people change their relationship with food and deal with uncomfortable emotions. Sometimes it is just that people eat too much, but if comfort eating is present, even with gastric band or hypno-band hypnosis, this needs to be addressed or, long term, things won’t change.
Once we had finished our sessions she sent me a lovely testimonial,
"I have absolutely loved your techniques. I've been working on it for three weeks now (not every day, even) and I have to say that my life has changed drastically in the food department. My emotional eating habits are gone. I am making the best food decisions of my life! .... . In the last three weeks, I haven't eaten a single thing in my car."
If comfort eating is something that concerns you and you would like to have a chat with me about it, please click here.
If you would prefer, I also have a self help audio course, "How To Stop Eating For Your Emotions" which you can access here.