Answering the question: What's it called when you just eat because it feels good? Not because I'm not necessarily hungry, but I am almost always thinking about food and how happy I'll be to have it. And then I never feel good after, but sometimes I'll even go back for more until I'm sick.
I have been asked this a lot and wanted to share it with you! The VERY first thing I want to draw your attention to is how you say, ‘because it feels good, rather than ‘because it tastes good.' That tells us right there that this is emotional. And this is likely emotional eating.
Let's Go Deeper
When saying, ‘I eat because it feels good.' I have to ask: are you putting your food on a plate, sitting down, and allowing yourself to taste and enjoy that food? Or is it mindless, distracted, or eating?
I ask this because when we say, ‘the food makes me feel good,' or ‘nothing else makes me feel as good as food does,' yet we're not experiencing and enjoying the food, then is it the food that's making you feel this way? Or is it the turning off of your brain, the dissociating, the checking out that makes you feel good?
Emotional eating is when you eat in response to a FEELING rather than hunger. (You can experience both at the same time, which I talk about in my hunger and fullness masterclass) but for purposes of today's episode and answering this question, we will talk about eating just in response to the feeling because this person says, ‘not necessarily because I am hungry.'
Eating because it feels good can be in response to positive emotion; eating birthday cake on your child's birthday because you're celebrating, not necessarily because you're hungry. And, when we eat because it feels good, it can respond to negative emotions, like feeling stressed, sad, or angry.
I want to make something apparent: Emotional Eating is NOT wrong. However, when we rely on food as our only way to cope with emotion, the only thing that gives us all pleasure will lead to a limited life. And I KNOW you want more than this, so let's talk about what to do.
When You Can't Stop Thinking About Food (and it is emotional)
So let's go back to the second part of your question ‘I am almost always thinking about food and how happy I'll be to have it. And then I never feel good after, but sometimes I'll even go back for more until I'm sick.'
When you say, ‘I am almost always thinking about food and how happy I'll be to have it.' This tells us that there might not be enough other things that make you happy in your life right now. If food is the only thing in your life that makes you happy, then, OF COURSE, you're going to think about it all day. And, OF COURSE, it will be harder to stop eating because once it ends, the happiness stops.
This is not about shaming or judging yourself over going to food to make you happy. Instead, this is an excellent opportunity for us to get curious about what is happening in our life. For example, why is food the only thing that brings you happiness right now? What is that about? And can we work on finding other things that bring you happiness – to add other forms of joy to your day?
So what if we take the focus off of food entirely and begin to focus on finding other things that can bring us pleasure and joy in our day?
‘BUT BUT BUT Ryann, I've never been able to find anything that gives me the same pleasure and joy that food does.'
Is the food bringing you joy or the numbing, the dissociating, the checking out that brings you this feeling? And is that real joy? Is that a pleasure?
So what if, instead, we try: how can I find other forms of joy to add to my day today?
- Maybe that's putting your coffee in a mug and sitting on your couch snuggling your pet or kiddo for 2 minutes before you start getting ready.
- Perhaps that's taking a shower with extra good-smelling soap and taking a moment to feel the warmth and water on your skin as you shower.
- Or maybe that's getting in your favorite form of movement, without a counter, but just because it makes you feel good.
- Maybe that's putting on your favorite sing-along songs in the car and singing on your way to work.
- Perhaps that's taking your lunch outside and taking a moment to breathe fresh air.
- Or maybe that's going for a walk while talking to a loved one or listening to your favorite podcast.
- Maybe you that planning a date night with your partner or a friend.
- Perhaps that curling up on the couch in cozy clothes with a fun novel
It's easy to forget the impact adding a few moments of joy into our day can bring to our overall life. And if you're anything like I was, I used to think those things were a waste of time. They didn't do anything for me. They felt like work.
It took me a long time to realize that maybe it wasn't that these things didn't do anything for me. And perhaps it wasn't that these things were working. Maybe it was my mental block that I didn't deserve moments like this that kept me from enjoying and appreciating.
Our goal is not to villainize emotional eating. It is simply to address that you might want to live a life where you solve your problems rather than just numbing them out so you can stop feeling the way you are currently feeling.
Our problem is that food is the ONLY thing that brings you happiness. So what if we dig into that? What if we remove the focus from food entirely and begin focusing on other things that can bring you joy?
You don't know until you try.