I was stressed out and had carb cravings…
Emotional eating happens. I had my own experience with stress eating recently.
I woke up with no power. I looked outside and saw the power company working on the lines. With a full day of work planned, I rushed outside in my slippers to find out what’s going on. They were replacing the line and the power would be out for 8 hours. I was stunned.
I felt my stress bubbling up. My mind raced about all of the things that I wouldn’t get done that day.
I left my house to take care of some grocery shopping. When I got there, I needed ice cream so I threw it in my cart. I had emotional eating cravings.
As soon as I get home, I pop open the ice cream at 9:45 in the morning. I finish half the pint before I feel a little more relaxed.
Have you experienced stress eating?
You make great plans and then they get shaken up. And it frustrates you.
Then you start eating to cope with stress.
And you may feel bad about it. Diet culture has you conditioned to think of any eating besides nourishment is terrible. That shame stresses you out more and you want to eat to comfort yourself.
It’s a cycle.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is eating that occurs because you have strong feelings that you can’t realize or are difficult to process. You need soothing so you turn to food. It is something that you know from experience can make you feel a little better.
Emotional eating, comfort eating, stress eating, and eating your feelings are ways to describe eating to soothe our feelings.
Look, you are human and you feel things.
And that isn’t always comfortable. Stress, frustration, guilt, and sadness are all human emotions that are hard to sit with.
To deal with that sometimes you are drawn to foods that you might not usually choose. And you might eat a larger quantity of them than you usually do. You might feel like you are eating your emotions.
Stress eating can make you feel out of control. You may not want to eat what you might think of as “bad” foods, but you can’t help yourself.
You may even feel like you are alone in your comfort eating. That’s because diet culture likes to hide the truth about emotional eating.
Secret #1. Emotional Food Cravings are Normal
I know diet culture has made you feel like crap about your stressed out food cravings. That’s nonsense.
Emotion cravings aren’t a you issue. They are an everyone issue.
Research has shown that people experience craving sweets and carbohydrates with feeling a lot of tension in their day.
Secret #2. Emotional Eating Isn’t Bad
Listen up. This is important.
Comfort eating isn’t a bad thing.
You comfort eat when you have a lot of stress or tension in your life. What purpose does it fill?
It helps soothe you.
When you eat in this way, you are soothing yourself in a way that you know works. It is the way you take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a bad thing, even if it is stress eating.
Are there other ways you could comfort and soothe yourself in addition to comfort eating? Yes.
Are other types of soothing worth exploring? Absolutely.
Honor your cravings
But that doesn’t mean that comforting yourself by honoring your emotional cravings is a terrible thing.
Remember my story. I was stressed from a major shift from my planned day. I noticed that I had emotional cravings. And I honored them without trying to find activities to replace emotional eating.
I ate some ice cream and I felt better.
Healing Your Relationship With Food Helps You Honor Your Cravings
But the way I relate to food is different than it once was.
Years ago, I might have needed to eat a whole container of ice cream to soothe myself. And then I would have felt bad about not having enough “control.” I would have spent the rest of the day or week abusing my body to “make up” for my emotional eating. This tension may have increased my stress eating.
It might lead to a carb craving emotional eating cycle that I couldn’t break free from.
Now I just move on without judgement.
I no longer feel bad about food. Food is nourishment, but it has more value than that.
Sometimes I will eat because I’m hungry, food smells good, others are eating, or because I need a bit of comfort.
And sometimes you will too.
Now if I experience emotional cravings, I can move on quickly. I soothe myself and work on what caused me distress to begin with.
I used other tools that I had to relax that day. I went for a drive and sang my favorite songs the loudest I could. I cuddle my favorite cat and then took a long shower.
I felt better. Still irritated but better. Would I have resolved my tension without indulging my stressed out carb cravings?
Mayb. Maybe not.
But did it hurt me to honor my cravings?
Absolutely not, even if I ate ice cream rather than eating a “healthy” breakfast.
In fact, it was emotionally healthier for me to honor my cravings without judgement.
What Do You Think About Honoring Your Emotional Eating Cravings?
Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Here is a dietitian telling you that it is okay to stress eat when diet culture has told you all your life that it is bad.
How does that feel?
Often my clients reject the idea of honoring their cravings. A lot of the time this is because our relationship with food still needs work.
And that’s okay. You don’t have to be ready to honor your sweets cravings.
Just know that it is possible to do. Through working on your relationship, you can stop the emotional eating cycle of shame and more emotional eating. You can learn to move on from stress eating so that it doesn’t ruin your week.
Want to talk more about this? Reach out for a free clarity call.