For many people food is a coping mechanism.
When they are stressed or sad or bored or angry or even tired - food is something that (in that short moment it is in their mouth) can make them feel better. Yet after having eaten out of stress/boredom/sadness etc. what people often feel is guilt or an empty/numb feeling...because they know that over-eating is not good for their body long-term.
Some people turn to alcohol to cope (a drink to take the edge off), some people turn to shopping (a new dress to give that quick rush), some people turn to drugs (that high just makes it all better) and others turn to things like exercise, meditation or talking to friends to get through. Some of these coping mechanisms are clearly more likely to be good for your health long-term whilst others may give you short-term pleasure but won’t benefit you in the long run. Using food, like using shopping, alcohol, gambling or drugs to get by - very rarely makes someone feel good long-term. I have never seen anyone turn to vegetables and healthy food to cope - they usually turn to highly-processed, sugary foods that can give them an instant hit of energy but then leave them feeling very low and bad.
The thing about our mental health is that we all have a state of mental health. So we will all have good days and bad days - all have stressful moments and all have sad times. It is what we do to get through in those moments that counts. If you have fallen into the habit of using food in times of boredom/stress/sadness/loneliness/anger etc... it can be very difficult to reverse that pattern. It is just naturally what you turn to...and often those patterns you will have learnt very early on (perhaps your mum used to give you a sweet treat to stop you crying or at university you learnt that fried chicken or pizza could make you feel better when you were down).
So what can you do if you think that you may be eating (not because you are hungry) but to satisfy some other emotional need?
1. Note what is going on for you. I ask all of my clients to keep a food diary both of what they are eating and of their mood/emotions throughout the day. If you notice that you are eating at work more when you are stressed or you comfort eat in the evenings because you are bored - you can find out what your particular triggers are.
2. Work at replacing your existing coping mechanism with something that will serve you better long-term. At The Food Psychology Clinic this is something that we can help you do using neuro-lingusitic programming and hypnotherapy, however you can also try to do this yourself by reaching for a herbal tea rather than a biscuit or going out for a walk/meditating when you feel bored or sad instead of turning to cake.
3. Look at where your sadness/stress/boredom etc. is coming from and see what changes in your life you could make to stop experiencing these feelings in the first place. If your relationship is making you unhappy do you need to think about whether you should be in it at all and if it is a particular friend that is stressing you out, should you be spending less time with her? At The Food Psychology Clinic we also help you to improve your overall happiness so that you can resolve the emotional triggers that are causing you to over-eat in the first place.
If you are interested in finding out more about how The Food Psychology Clinic can help you, email firstname.lastname@example.org to book in for a free 20 minute phone consultation.