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?