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You have stuffed yourself and feel ashamed? Then you’ve come to the right place and things will change for you forever. I promise! But I tell you in advance, it will be EXTREMELY difficult and many will not want to take this step. Anyone who has struggled with this nagging issue knows all too well how bad it feels. This perceived loss of control and feeling of powerlessness. if you stick to the following recommendations, you will get rid of “emotional” eating once and for all. To do that, it’s first important to understand why “emotional” eating doesn’t exist and what it really is.
What “emotional” eating is not
Stress, loneliness, trauma, a difficult childhood, job loss, and all other negative life experiences are not triggers for “emotional” eating. As tragic as these situations may be. “Emotional” eating is also not a venue for emotional struggles or conflict. Nor is it pain that one is trying to mask or compensate for. You don’t want to hide anything with the weight you’ve gained, either. Rather, you are hiding because you no longer find yourself attractive in your own body. Our emotions are signaling devices that show possibilities (happiness) or threats (unhappiness). What they do not do is animate us to eat. That is psychologically and physiologically impossible.
Since when the term “emotional” eating exists?
The term “emotional” eating is a construct of our modern world and not a phenomenon of our ancestors. For this reason, it is useful to explore when exactly “emotional” eating found a place in our history. “Emotional” eating began precisely when humans began to modify food, refining it and making it richer. Rich food mainly includes foods that are rich in salt, sugar, and oil. Furthermore, also flour products. This makes the food tastier and triggers even more feelings of happiness in us. However, the human nervous system was never designed to consume the majority of the foods we currently consume. To understand what is behind “emotional” eating, it is first helpful to understand what motivates people.
Food and the motivation triad
The following three characteristics motivate people:
- The pursuit of pleasure (sex and food)
- Avoiding pain: unpleasant feelings of hunger (physical pain) or being ashamed because of our “otherness” (psychological pain)
- Saving energy (e.g. eating fast food instead of cooking by ourselves)
Pleasure-gain and pain-avoidance traps put great obstacles in our way in the pursuit of health. However, the third component, the pursuit of energy conservation, is the most difficult of all to avoid the pleasure trap. Humans by nature tend to take the path of least resistance. Our technical development is also based on the principle of energy conservation. Man today, in terms of acquiring goods and services, is 12 times more efficient than he was just a few generations ago. A good example of energy conservation is the story of McDonald’s. It was the first fast-food restaurant, which, according to Henry Ford, discovered the assembly line. By the end of the 20th century, an average person could drive to a fast-food restaurant and get an extremely high-fat, high-calorie meal in a very short time without leaving their car. The meal cost only a few dollars, which was only a fraction of the hourly wage of an average worker. There has never been anything like it in the history of mankind. It is a maximization of motivation triad par excellence. These innovations have brought many benefits to our lives, but unfortunately, they have also brought a dilemma to our health and “emotional” eating. We find ourselves in a dietary pleasure trap. Never in history has our food been as delicious as it is today. Unhealthy foods have become the norm. If you refuse to do so, conflicts with colleagues, families, and friends are inevitable. If you choose to eat healthy, you run the risk of being seen as anti-social. It’s hard to counter all the culinary temptations. Our energy-saving mechanisms are still deeply rooted in us today and influence many of our everyday decisions. For our nervous system, it makes sense to always eat rich food. It ALWAYS feels good to eat this, regardless of whether we feel happy or unhappy. Above all, unhealthy/rich food – rich in salt, sugar, and oil – is very easily accessible and healthy food is not -> energy conservation! For our ancestors, the path of least resistance was the best that ensured their survival. But for us today this is no longer true, as the world for which the path of least resistance was intended no longer exists. If you are interested in your health and a good life, you often have to go against your own instincts. This is not an easy task, but with a little preparation, the chances of preserving one’s physical and psychological integrity increase.
What is really behind “emotional” eating
Find out what “emotional” eating really is in the next 7 points:
1. The Pleasure Trap
The food we eat is too rich and as already explained in the motivation triad, we are trapped and very few people know this. “Emotional” eating is effectively a cover for the pleasure trap. Thin people who tell you you have an emotional problem, which is why you overeat on rich stuff, have genetically fine-tuned satiety mechanisms. The only reason why they don’t gain weight and you do. You can find a detailed explanation in the article “What genes reveal about your weight – The solution to weight loss“. In fact, it is a much more satisfying explanation to say that someone “broke” us in childhood than to say that what we eat is too rich. This is a defense of one’s status that takes place subconsciously. For a more detailed explanation of the pleasure trap, read the article “The Pleasure Trap – Everything in moderation. The myth of moderation“.
2. We are caught in the ego trap
This trap prevents you, among other things, from not reaching for the rich foods. What exactly is behind it in detail, you will learn in the article “The Ego Trap – Why you lack motivation in weight loss“.
3. The human nervous system is an energy conservation machine
I have already explained this concept in more detail in the Motivational Triad section.
4. Social pressure
Did you know that your peers don’t like it when you eat healthy? This is a more complex reason and that’s why I recommend you to read the article “Why is eating healthy so difficult and what can you do about it“.
5. Classical conditioning – “emotional” eating is also partly conditioned
You can condition your nervous system to reach towards unhealthy foods in certain situations. For some, it’s eating another bar of chocolate in front of the TV in the evening, even though you’re full and satiated. There are no emotional reasons for this. At school, you’ve probably heard about Pavlov’s reflex. In one of Pavlov’s laboratory experiments, he rang a bell every time he handed food to the dogs. After some time, the bell sound alone was enough to make the dogs salivate. Classic conditioning took place here. The same thing happens to your nervous system when it regularly gets the certain “extras” after food as a “reward.” It even goes so far that your nervous system activates the digestion in anticipation of it and gets ready to push another load of sweets afterward. The solution: deconditioning! How exactly does this work? There’s no charming way. The way looks like this, by not giving in to those cravings. As with smokers, cravings increase in the first few days, peak at some point, and then decrease after a few weeks. In the first months and weeks, cravings will announce themselves spontaneously. Again, be steadfast.
6. Every person has instincts that make them crave rich food out of nowhere every now and then
This phenomenon is called “The Cram Circuit”. Our ancestors hunted a wild animal about every three weeks, which was richer than everything else they ate. The wild animal could not be stored and had to be consumed immediately. Especially because you also didn’t know when the next one was caught. In the video “The Cram Circuit – the story of binge eating and overeating” you will find more details about this. These cravings are only temporary and will pass if you don’t indulge in them. This point has similarities with 5 and has the same solution approach: deconditioning!
7. Environment – It is normal to eat unhealthy foods and have them in the house
Rich food is practically part of good manners. If you don’t eat it, you are often excluded from social interactions. This in turn sabotages your own plans to eat healthy. You can read more about this in the article “Why is eating healthy so difficult and what you can do about it“.
What makes you think that “emotional” eating is due to stress, trauma, etc.?
Stress is nothing more than time pressure. A new job, trying to exercise more, having a baby, volunteering, etc. all take more time, and often we load ourselves up with more than we can handle to please someone we don’t like. This all creates time pressure and under time pressure it leads people to take shortcuts (see motivation triad) and one of them is unhealthy eating. Under stress, people often cut out the important things, like healthy eating. In those moments, reaching for the highest calorie-dense food makes the most sense for your survival instincts. It’s easily accessible and inexpensive. Preparing a vegetable dish and boiling potatoes takes more effort. In stressful situations, you end up taking the path of least resistance when you reach for unhealthy stuff. Taking care of a healthy diet is at the bottom of the priority list. Remember, when our ancestors were stressed, they didn’t have the option of reaching for the chocolate bar. Stressful situations take you out of your daily routine of making good decisions because your brain is wired for survival at that moment. Stressors are turbulence that disrupts our daily routine. For this reason, your environment is the most important component when it comes to not stuffing unhealthy things into yourself unnecessarily. Stress is part of life, so it is wise to control what stress you can keep away and what you ALWAYS have control over is what you have at home to eat.
The soul screams Snickers – food for the soul
Surely you know the term soul food. What is meant here by soul food is simply the pure dopamine kick. A kick for your nervous system, which is connected to your brain, but your soul has nothing to do with it. Emotionally you feel bad after eating a bunch of unhealthy foods. “People aren’t overweight because they have emotional problems. They have emotional problems because they’re overweight.” – Dr. Doug Lisle. People who think they eat emotionally have a great loss of self-worth. Today’s psychology sells the concept of “emotional” eating because it is a boost for the suffering patient. For the moment, it feels good to be told that you eat the way you do for emotional reasons. But that doesn’t solve the root cause. The root cause is that our food is way too rich! If one reduces the caloric density of the food, the weight problems solve themselves. When the therapist signals to the patient that his eating behavior is emotionally based, these are status signals, meaning esteem signals, and an excuse for eating rich food. The problem is that the majority of therapists and psychologists are not aware of the effect of the pleasure trap. This is underestimated with devastating consequences. Some people also use “emotional” eating as an excuse for unhealthy eating.
The solution for “emotional” eating
The only way to get out of this situation is to have NOTHING in the house that is unhealthy. By nothing, I mean nothing and nothing for the guests, partner, or anyone else in the household. If family members eat those certain foods, then have them lock them away or don’t eat them for your sake. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. As you can see, I didn’t promise too much when I meant that it is EXTREMELY hard to get out of this pleasure trap. And in parallel, you also get rid of your conditioning when you no longer have rich foods in the house. Internalize that your nervous system is designed to reach to eat the most calorie-dense food. You can be as disciplined as you want, it won’t work in the long run. Not a single person reaches for a box of vegetables during stressful moments. No one stuffs themselves with pounds of broccoli after an emotionally unpleasant moment. It’s always unhealthy foods. If they’re not within reach, you can’t stuff yourself with them either. Do yourself a favor the next time you feel like stuffing yourself, reach for veggies, and try eating a pack of carrots or whatever veggies you can get in. Tell me how it was. If you think about it, how insane it actually is to try to treat something based on what’s in the refrigerator. Our house would rather need therapy.
What we call “emotional” food is not an emotional problem, but a mathematical one. In other words, the food we eat is too calorie-dense. In this situation, you need the courage to stand firm despite resistance from fellow people who don’t want you to eat healthy. If you want to know how to lovingly signal to those around you that you’re not eating these things anymore, I recommend reading the article “Why is eating healthy so difficult and what you can do about it“.
Whew, that was a lot of information, right? I don’t want you to feel bad or to minimize your trauma. I am heartily sorry for what happened to you in childhood or otherwise. However, this is not the reason for your eating problem. Rather, it will help you if you now know the real reason for it. I have been successfully out of the pleasure trap since 2014. I know all the tips and tricks for this and learned them from Dr. McDougall, a physician, and Dr. Doug Lisle, a psychologist, among others. I wish there was a more charming solution, but this is the only true and long-term one. In my free guide, you’ll learn about all the foods you can eat and even lose weight. You will receive it after signing up for the newsletter. To end it in the words of Dr. Lisle, “You need to work harder on your environment than you do on yourself!” Behind every dark cloud, there is light in sight.
I look forward to helping you turn your life, completely around to a healthy one. I am sure that you will feel better emotionally and get more strength in difficult moments.
Feel free to contact me if you need help with this.
Sources and recommended books:
- Book: The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force That Undermines Health & Happiness
- Book: The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss: A Revolutionary Approach to Conquer Cravings, Overcome Food Addiction, and Lose Weight Without Going Hungry
- Video: Dr. Doug Lisle on Emotional Eating
- Video: TRAUMA VS EMOTIONAL EATING – Dr. Doug Lisle & Dr. Jen Howk
- Video: Dr. Doug Lisle on Stress Eating, Bingeing and the Environment