Everybody knows about the health risks of overeating. What some people don't know is that emotional eating is the biggest factor in overeating. Without understanding emotional eating, losing weight is virtually impossible.
Overeating and emotional eating, however, have many hidden consequences. Below are five you should consider.
1. It Can Damage Your Relationships
Relationship stress is one of the most common triggers for overeaters. When there's tension, or in the aftermath of a fight, food seems like a safe haven. Once in a while, this escape into flavor is normal.
However, the more accustomed you get to the relief, the sooner and more frequently you will turn to food when the going gets rough in a relationship. Instead of working through your differences in the living room with your spouse, friend, or family member, you will find yourself making a trip to the kitchen at the very first sign of tension. As time goes on, problems pile up in the relationship, tensions build, and tempers flair. The habit of turning to food for comfort gets so ingrained that you don't learn the necessary skills of communicating, getting needs met and deepening intimacy. Over time your relationships don't get better, you just get bigger.
2. You Neglect Your Ambitions
Many people overeat to relieve frustration with where their life is going. You might feel stuck or under-appreciated, and turn to food as a reward. When this habit gets out of hand, you will begin to neglect your ambitions. Instead of going out there and pursuing long-terms goals, you will more and more frequently turn to food for fulfillment.
One of our members, Susan, shared an interesting story with us on this point. She said that most of her life she wanted to be writer, but she always criticized herself for not being "good enough." She felt stuck. Her ambitions felt out of reach and she began turning to food for comfort. After a while, she stopped writing all together and used food as a way to push down her disappointment. Instead of working on her craft she just gave up.
Luckily, Susan was able to break this pattern. She saw how emotional eating was interfering with any chance she had of reaching her goals. When she got her emotional eating under control she started to write again.
3. It Bottles Up Your Feelings
It's obvious that emotional eating pushes down unpleasant feelings. In the moment, this seems like a great thing. "Wow, I get to eat and not feel like crap!" It feels win-win.
However, feelings need to be addressed. They demand to be addressed. You might be able to avoid them for a while, but the important ones will keep coming back in new, unpleasant ways. The more you overeat to deal with your emotions the more emotions pile up in the background, waiting to come out. And the bigger that pile gets, the more frightening it becomes.
4. It Makes Your Fears Seems Larger Than Life
Everyone has something they don't want to think about. It could be a challenge waiting on the horizon, or a particular shortcoming you think you might have. Many emotional eaters use food as a way to handle these sorts of fears. Rather than address the fear with practical, no-nonsense solutions and steps, you retreat into food.
The emotional eating habit prevents you from facing your fears directly. This allows them to take on a whole life of their own. Rather than being a simple challenge or self-doubt, they begin to grow and grow until they seem impossible to face. When a fear feels so large, eating begins to feel even more alluring.
5. It Can Make It Hard to Love Yourself
Anyone that truly knows the pain and struggle of overeating knows how much baggage comes along with it. Much in the same way relapsing smokers and alcoholics beat themselves up and belittle themselves for their lack of control, emotional eaters feel like their struggle is a moral failing, something that's wrong with them. Many describe themselves as "failures" or "losers." Despite having achieved many great things in their life, the emotional eating habit determines how they feel about themselves. This negative self-image, of course, leads to more emotional eating. It's a vicious cycle that steals your self-esteem.
Each of the examples above shows how emotional eating and overeating affect more than just your body and health. The problem becomes a self-sustaining cycle. While stuck in the cycle, it usually feels impossible to get out.
The good news is that escaping the cycle is possible, and that it's even easier than it feels. The key is to start making small, positive changes. Instead of eating after a fight, go to your spouse and talk about it. Instead of feeling frustrated, find a small thing you can do to move closer to your goals. You won't all of a sudden have a perfect relationship or achieve your dreams. However, these small steps begin to snowball, just like emotional eating, but in a positive direction. The more you make small, positive changes, the less you will eat, which will make you feel better, which will make you eat less, which will make you feel better, and so on.
The bottom line is that these sorts of consequences to emotional eating are real and difficult to bear. But, it's possible to escape the cycle and end emotional eating.