If you weren’t “consciously coupled” (apologies to Gwyneth) on Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to feel left out of the happenings.  That can cause all sorts of uncomfortable feelings that trigger emotional eating.

And let’s face it, the one relationship we ALL have is with food.  And our food relationship, like any other one, can have ups and down. Getting it to function at its best takes some time, attention, and nurturing.

Male or female, anyone can be an emotional eater.  No judgements here on the type of food, either.  Whether it’s junk food or whole wheat bread, excess is excess and if you’re eating for the wrong reason, you want to check it before your weight, your health, and most of all, your relationship with food, spirals out of control.

Give yourself a break

It’s never been easier to “swallow” your stresses by overeating or binge-eating.   Technology has brought us great things, but it’s also enabled all manner of impulsive behaviors and instant gratifications.  Rough if you are an emo-eater because you can order up just about anything with a few clicks, and no one even sees you buying it.  What makes emo-eating so easy also makes it hard to kick.

No beating yourself up here.  Even my dogs would eat until they exploded if there were no barriers (me) in the way.

Make peace with food

All relationships are better when there’s some compromise from both sides.  Why should the food relationship be different?    If our food could speak to us, consider what it might say:

  • “Please don’t depend on me to be the only thing that makes you happy.”
  • “I’m not jealous. Seek other pleasures.  It’s OK, I’ll be here when it’s time to eat.”
  • “If it’s not time to eat, please leave me alone. We need a break from each other sometimes.”
  • “I’m not just a quick thrill.  I have a nurturing side, too, and I wish you’d spend more time with that side of me.”
  • “I don’t want you to hate or resent me after we meet. I want to have you feeling good about the time we spent together.”

What often prevents us from changing our relationship with food is some fear that we won’t be able to cope any other way.  For many emo-eaters food is a “best friend” who’s always there.  But enjoying non-food pleasures is absolutely critical for a balanced life.  Developing them and giving them equal standing with food takes planning.  But what worthwhile project doesn’t take some time and thought?  So nurture your relationship with “not-food”, and be patient.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor were your eating habits, so some tolerance is in order.

Some ways to begin re-building your healthy relationship with food:

  • Leverage the positives in your diet: stock up on your favorite fruits and vegetables – even if they’re not in season. If that keeps you from bingeing on high-calorie food, it’s worth it and don’t apologize.  Get back to saving the world when you feel a little more up to it.
  • Cultivate “non-food” pleasures, including ones you may have forgotten: Go for a bike ride, visit someplace local you’ve wanted to see, take a class or do a hobby, or dance around your house like no one is watching.  The process takes you out of a stressful food space and into something that feeds you in a different way.
  • De-clutter something in your life. No huge projects here, even something as modest as organizing one drawer.  It’s cathartic and you feel great afterwards.  Ask anyone who has done it.
  • Have what you crave – but don’t buy more than a single portion. It might be more expensive this way, but if it helps you stick to a single portion, it actually saves you money and definitely saves calories.  It also builds a healthy association with indulgent foods.

Reassure yourself: there is NO food you can’t have.  The issue is how much and how often, and how to have it in a way that leaves you feeling good after, not just during, the eating.