Emotional Eating

I’ve been emotional eating for as long as I can remember.

Emotional eating comes in lots of different forms. It can be getting a burger and fries when you’re happy, eating ice cream when you’re sad, munching on potato chips when you’re bored or raiding your pantry when you’re tired because it just makes you feel better. It can happen to anyone and a lot of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

As I said, I’m no exception. My trigger used to be stress, especially after becoming a mom. It could have been after a difficult time getting the kids to go to bed. Or a stressful day. Even after an argument with someone. My first instinct was to head to the kitchen to find something to eat and it had to be junk food. Even though I recognized what I was doing, I couldn’t stop because putting that brownie or those chips in my mouth helped me feel better, at least in that moment.

After having children, I started to think about it more. Is emotional eating instinctive or is it a learned behaviour? And if it’s a learned behaviour, I don’t want my kids to learn it from me.

Think about this, when a child gets hurt, or upset or in a bad mood, it’s often second nature to give them a treat to eat to feel better or cheer up, like a cookie or ice cream. And if this happens over and over again, what does that teach them? It says, whenever I feel bad, if I eat something, it’ll make me feel better.

So, since my kids where young toddlers, I have been very careful about this. When they get hurt, I don’t give them something to eat to get them to stop crying. When they’re cranky or in a bad mood, I don’t give them a treat to feel better. I try and give them attention and hugs or I try and distract them until everything is okay. I usually give them a cup of water and tell them to drink that and it’ll make them feel better.

Some people (ahem..grandparents) have given me odd looks when I tell them not to give the kids food while they are crying and to wait until after they feel better. But I really feel it’s it and it’s always better to start early on rather than them learning a behaviour that could possibly lead to unhealthy eating habits, food disorders, obesity and health problems. Why not start young so that every time they get stressed out or upset, they don’t head straight to that box of cookies or bag of potato chips like i do.

And of course, as a parent, I should be setting an example for them as well. I do try, but some evenings, after they go to bed and I’m exhausted or stressed, the pantry is my best friend.  It’s something I  am working on it though.

I know it’s a sensitive topic, but I wonder, what are your thoughts on emotional eating?

11 thoughts on “Emotional Eating

  1. This one hit home. I’m as guilty as the next person, and really should make a point to be a better example for my kids. Thanks for shedding some light on this. You truly are an inspiration, Salma! 😉

  2. Hi Salma! I was sitting her thinking about how I have been emotionally eating lately and wanted to write my own post about it. Instead I checked out the Vancouver mom bloggers and found your blog! After a quick scan I saw this post and it immediately spoke volumes to me. I have been under a great deal of stress lately and it helps to find someone to relate to. Thanks so much for this post. I find it really helpful for myself and my tendancy to eat my emotions, as well I can see it being really helpful in how I react to my son Marcus when he gets hurt or discouraged!

  3. Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for your comment. It’s nice to know we are not the only ones who deal with stress this way. At least it’s something we recognize and hopefully do something about, for ourselves and our kids.

  4. I think it is very common. I can be an emotional eater and as you said I know full well why I’m eating that piece of chocolate or grabbed the bag of chips. As far as I can remember I don’t recall my parents ever using food as a way to calm me down, actually, I don’t recall anything expect being told to stop crying there is no reason to cry and then spending alone time in my bedroom. My emotional eating would have started when I finally had control over purchasing the food and so late teen years and early adulthood. If I’m in a good spot I can use my mindfulness tricks to take a breathe when I grab that bag of chips and ask myself the hard questions. Why am I grabbing this right now? Am I hungry? Am i bored? Did I just have a fight or disagreement? Once I have answered the question then I can make a choice. Sometimes its to put it back but sometimes it isn’t but I feel better when I have gone through the process. I try not to have things in my house and can go months being find then wham man I just really crave some Doritos. The whole eating thing is so difficult when raising kids because we have to deal with our own issues, if grandparents are in the picture from either side, well that adds more complications. Great post, definitely not alone.

    1. Thanks for you insight on this Bonnie. And you’re right, emotional eating can stem from many different things. As for raising kids, there’s definitely a lot involved these days!!

  5. This is such a great post – makes you think for sure.
    I have been a victim of stress eating all my life – still am.
    I think self-awareness is very important , else things can go really overboard and become a problem.

    the first image made me crave donuts for sure though 🙂

    -Neha
    LovePlayingDressup

  6. I think we’re all guilty of it, but teaching your kids by example is great. Jai and I see so many friends’ kids who already seem like they’re suffering from childhood obesity, and we always remind ourselves that it’s not the kids’ fault – the parents have to be the ones to say something/lead by example. Thanks for sharing – these are always difficult topics to discuss, so it’s nice to see people talking about it!

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