It's amazing when you chat to people about food and weight loss how critical they are of themselves, but even worse how critical they become of others. Somehow society has decided that it is okay to be Judge, Jury, and Persecutor of strangers. With no reason or interest, in their backgrounds , journey or struggles we feel entitled ... heck even obligated to base our judgement on a group of assumptions ... ones which often are unfounded!

As a person who has struggled with weight 'issues' my entire life, my journey has been a somewhat painful one, and guess who was head cheerleader for the anti-Heather campaign ... me!

I don't want to bring out the self-indulgent orchestra and honk my own horn of unhappiness , my past hasn't defined me! ... but it sure has shaped me! ... both before my weight loss and after

I am no longer in denial or held captive my the 'secret' of my emotional eating. I have conquered food, and whilst the temptations are still there (just like any other drug), the urges are far fewer and controllable. I have learnt that a scale is my friend, not my enemy ... it can help me manage my weight so that I can have my treats and temptations from time to time, without falling back into old habits.

Emotional eating seems to be almost a loaded phrase in our society today, but what many don't realise is that it is an epidemic born of a stressed and an abusive society. While many of us eat for comfort and not for hunger, the diagnoses of emotional eating are harder to pinpoint than any other illness or addiction. Psychologists are now reporting a growing trend in cases of emotional eating and it is directly linked to the ever increasing rate of obesity.

So the question then becomes, do you find yourself eating for emotion or stress-related reasons? How can you stop? 

Here is an article from Psychology Today which I came across and find to be super interesting and informative:

When someone tells me they’re an emotional eater, I ask three questions:
1) When do you emotionally eat? Is there a time of day that it strikes? For most people, the answer seems to be afternoon and evening. Although some people report nighttime eating – they will actually wake up and go eat in the middle of the night.

2) What do you eat? Emotional eaters tend to crave one of four things in my experience: high fat foods (e.g., Fried chicken, Sausage, Hot dog, Fried fish, Bacon, Steak), Sweets (e.g., Cake, Cinnamon Rolls, Ice cream, Cookies, Chocolate, Donuts, Candy, Brownies), Complex Carbohydrates (e.g., Sandwich bread, Rice, Biscuits, Pasta, Pancakes or Waffles, Rolls, Cereal), or Fast Food (e.g., Pizza, French fries, Hamburger, Chips). Sweets and Carbs seem to top that list, as do a combination of Sweet and Fat (e.g., Oreos).

3) Why do you emotional eat? What emotion actually triggered the episode? Was it boredom, anger, shame, fear, guilt, loneliness, etc.? The answer to this question seems to vary widely for my readers, but shame and guilt seem to come up quite often as do reports of using emotional eating as a form of punishment.

The answers to these questions should give you some insight into the circumstances that lead you to emotional eating. Of course, the bigger concern is how to stop. It boils down to this: if you are using food as a coping mechanism, you need to find another, more productive way to cope.

Emotional eating usually falls into one (or both) of two common (but usually ineffective) coping strategies: avoidant or emotion-focused coping. Avoidant coping is just what the name implies – you avoid dealing with the stressor. Eating when you are stressed so you don’t have to deal with the problem is an example of avoidant coping using food. As you might imagine, avoidant coping is rarely effective as the problem is still going to be there once you’ve stopped eating.

Emotion-focused coping using food can be equally ineffective. When we engage in emotion-focused coping, we are attempting to make ourselves feel better by addressing the emotions the stressor provoked rather than the stressor itself. So if you get in a fight with your significant other and, instead of talking it out, decide to comfort your hurt feelings by consuming a chocolate cake, that would be an example of emotion-focused coping using food. Again, not super helpful in this situation. While you might feel better after eating (or not – you might feel guilty if you eat something you have labeled as “bad” or eaten too much), you still haven’t fixed your problem.

You see where I’m going with this, right? Most of the time our problems are within our control to fix, and eating is likely not going to help. Thus, what we should be doing is focusing on how to fix our problems. That’s where problem-focused coping comes in. As the name implies, the basic premise of problem-focused coping is this: “Have a problem? Fix it.” So if you have a fight with your significant other, wait a little bit to calm down and then go back and talk it out. Don’t turn to food to comfort yourself because that’s not actually addressing the problem.' - Psychology Today

Whilst this revelation may sound easy to resolve ... it is not! In fact, it will take a lot of soul searching, some honesty with yourself, confession to friends so that they can help you manage your eating and lastly a truckload of self-control. It’s not going to happen overnight. If you’ve been turning to food as your primary coping mechanism for 40 odd years like me, you can’t expect it to go away overnight. I wish it was that simple, but for most of us, it’s not ... honestly, it's going to be a lifelong battle of keeping the weight off and fighting the 'fat-phobe' demons that will haunt you and taunt you!

My rock is my faith and secondly my family. Choose to fill your time with love instead of food ... the rewards are a life filled with joy and fewer tears. I did it, so can you!