We’ve all consumed large quantities of comfort or junk food due to our feelings instead of our hunger. There are some experts who suggest that 75% of overeating is caused by emotional eating.
Why is this so?
Let’s explore how our mind works to create feelings that may lead to emotional eating. The top list of feelings that are associated with this type of eating are depression, boredom, loneliness, chronic anger, anxiety, frustration, stress, problems with interpersonal relationships and poor self-esteem. Do you know anyone who is overweight who has these symptoms?
Let’s first explore a myth.
MYTH: Our feelings lead us to think certain ways.
Many psychologists believe this myth, after all, Sigmund Freud taught it. In the real world many believe that Dr. Freud name should have been called, Sigmund “Fraud.” If one believes this myth to be true, they’ll suffer from poor feelings their entire life. Because most psychologists believe this myth their counseling only solves between 10%-15% of the cases on a long-term basis.
The truth is just the opposite.
TRUTH: It is our thoughts that cause us to feel certain ways.
This great truth, when learned, can unlock the potential in all people and restore their well-being. George Pransky, PhD indicated that when his patients are taught this truth, their well-being and subsequent emotional health is restored on a long-term basis about 85% of the time. I don’t know about you, but I think an 85% success rate of patient cure beats 10-15% rate. Don’t you?
Let’s look at how this truth can help you overcome emotional eating.
The mind produces “thoughts” at a prolific rate. When the mind is troubled, the rate is magnified and thoughts almost flood the soul. According to Dr. Pransky about 95% of our “thoughts” are not real. That means that unless we choose to give them life, they are false and misleading.
You might be asking the question, “Hey wait a minute. If the thought came into my mind, then I produced it and it must be real?” That is simply not true. Yes the “thought” came into your mind, but you did not produce it. According to Dr. Pransky, all thought is “universal”, meaning that they almost can be compared to air floating around in the universe. One thought that you may have that enters your mind is the same thought that may enter my mind the next minute.
When our minds receive these universal thoughts and “you” give them life, by believing they’re real by attaching them to one of your insecurities, is when “feelings” are produced. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you’re with some people who you would like to get to know better. You hear them talk about going out to do something that you’d really like to do and think, “I’d really like to do that. I hope they ask me to go. But I’m afraid to ask them because they may think I’m weird and would probably say no. So I’m not going to ask.” If you believe that the thought is real, i.e., you believe they would say no and think you’re weird; you might begin to be depressed and unhappy. You’ve attached the thought to a very common insecurity that most people have; the fear of being criticized or the fear of not being loved. The reality of the situation is that no one in the crowd thinks you’re weird. While they may have said no to your request it would have probably been for a legitimate reason and not that you’re weird or that they don’t love you.
When you begin to realize then that your negative feelings that cause you to overeat are very similar, you’ll begin to be able to dismiss the thoughts as unreal, restore your well-being, and not be placed in a situation that you think consuming food would make your negative emotion go away.
Let’s look at another situation that you might have had where you easily dismissed a thought.
If you were enjoying your eighty-dollar seats at the opera and began wondering whether to put new seat covers in your car, you would dismiss the thought. There’s no way you’d let it interfere with your enjoyment of the opera. If you were enjoying being with your wife and suddenly remembered she forgot to put gas in the car, you might banish that thought to keep it from interfering with your evening at home.
You constantly can and do dismiss thoughts you deem extraneous and nonproductive. It is only your misguided judgment (i.e. loss of well-being) about what is extraneous and unproductive that supports the presence of negative thoughts in an emotional state of mind.
Your troubled thoughts that lead to emotional eating in part are caused by our culture. Many of us learn that food can bring comfort, at least in the short-term. As a result, you may often turn to food to heal emotional problems. Eating becomes a habit preventing us from understanding that it is our thoughts that cause us emotional distress.
Let’s review some true thoughts of people who have overcome being overweight and see how all they really did was choose to change their thoughts to restore their well-being by dismissing their troubled thoughts.
Get out and move. I always convinced myself I didn’t have time to exercise. I dieted and I’d lose weight but it didn’t stay off until I started walking three times a week.
Lisa Hodgson, 32, lost 37 lbs
Analysis: Do you see that it was just her thoughts that made her believe she didn’t have time to exercise? When she overcame the thought, she was able to start walking.
If you have a bad day or a bad week, take a black marker and scratch it out in your food journal, look at where you made your mistakes and start fresh the next day. Because if you beat yourself up over it, you’re only going to get into a vicious circle where you eat more because you’re depressed.
Dottie Kettle, 32, lost 103 lbs
Analysis: If you really think about it, a person that “beats themselves up” only does so because they believe the thoughts they are having are real. No one else is beating them up. No one is inside their head saying the negative thought. When you then become depressed is because you are attaching the thought to a root fear or insecurity such as fear of ill-health or fear of being criticized for being overweight.
Don’t weigh yourself. I only weighed myself three times while I was losing weight, which was helpful. If you’re constantly weighing yourself, and you gain a pound, it plays with your mind and you end up eating a bag of chips.
Sheila Clark, 31, lost 65 lbs
Analysis: While weighing yourself if you have a thought that “plays with your mind” it will usually be something negative and self derogatory. Those kind of thoughts are the ones that when we give them life, can create miserable feelings. Instead of letting any thought “play with your mind”, just release it and recognize it is not real. When you do this the negative emotion will never be created and you’ll then eat only because you’re hungry and body needs the nourishment.
The Feelings Journal
The first key to being able to use this truth to overcome poor emotional eating is to keep a feelings journal to help you identify your thoughts. A feelings journal may look like this.
Let’s say one day you’re unhappy. The journal may look like this;
Feelings: Eyebrows are drooped. My voice is slow. I don’t want to be around people. My energy is gone.
Thoughts: I think my wife is upset with me because I didn’t do what she wanted me to.
Your fear: She is going to hold this grudge a long time and I’ll not be able to go to the game with the guys. Fear of criticism. Fear of the loss of love of someone.
Review the situation. You might then ask yourself, “Is my wife really upset with me? She’s a reasonable person. The reason I didn’t get done what she wanted was not entirely in my control. If I get the task done, even if it’s late and before the game, I’ll still be able to go.
OUTCOME: By dismissing the bogus thought and replacing it with one that is more real, i.e., “she’s a reasonable person”, the unhappy feeling goes away and with it all the negative emotion.
It would be very difficult to address each of the top list of negative emotions mentioned at the start of the article that may cause you to emotional eat. It was my attempt to expose you to how these negative emotions/feelings are created through bogus universal thought. By understanding the TRUTH of how emotions are created and then applying the format of the feelings journal, you might be able to restore your well-being and learn to control your thoughts and choose those that make you happy by dismissing those that create negative emotion.
For more information on how thought is used to restore well-being go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Banks_%28Philosopher%29