We’re pleased to share this article from Julie M. Simon, the author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual. Julie is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach with more than 20 years of experience helping overeaters stop dieting, heal their relationship with themselves and their bodies, and lose weight and keep it off.
Unfortunately, we vegans are not immune to stress. Whether we’re trying to find a forever home for a furry friend, watching a video exposing cruelty to animals, demonstrating against vivisection, or trying to explain for the umpteenth time where we get our protein, stress seems to be a part of our daily lives. And if our childhood environment was, let’s just say, less than nourishing, we may find it even more difficult to cope with the unpleasant emotions that are bound to surface on this journey toward higher consciousness.
If you find yourself routinely overeating at meals, snacking mindlessly on unhealthy comfort food, or bingeing regularly, you’re clearly eating to satisfy some need other than true physiological hunger. You’re most likely turning to food for comfort, soothing, distraction, and, yes, even excitement. We all enjoy eating and will overeat or snack at times just because the company is great or the food is so tasty. The problem arises when we overeat (even plant foods) to such an extent that our health becomes compromised.
There is a disconnection that fuels emotional eating—we’re cutting off from uncomfortable emotions and disempowering thoughts rather than paying attention to these important signals and responding with love and care. Perhaps we tend to grab something to eat whenever we feel stressed out, agitated, or bored. Maybe we overeat when we feel hopeless or powerless and experience self-defeating thoughts.
The good news is that you can stop emotional eating by being willing to pay attention to your emotions and thoughts and allow them to guide you to the unresolved issues in your life. Try practicing the following two self-care skills (from my book The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual) whenever you find yourself eating without true hunger cues, eating even after you’re full, or wanting to choose unhealthy comfort foods:
1. Establish the habit of self-connection: This means “going inside” when you want to eat emotionally and identifying your emotions and needs. Ask yourself, “How do I feel in this moment?” After you identify your feelings with three-word statements, for example, “I feel overwhelmed” or “I feel sad,” ask yourself, “What do I need?” or “What am I truly longing for in this moment?” See if you can access a wise, nurturing voice within that can soothe and comfort you and help you meet your true nonfood needs.
2. Catch and reframe self-defeating thoughts: While you’re inside, catch any negative, critical, or pessimistic thoughts that you’re aware of. These kinds of thoughts do a lot of damage, and they can fuel emotional eating. For each negative thought that you identify, see if you can think of a more positive replacement thought. So, for example, “It’s hopeless—there are too many animals to save and too many people who don’t care” can be reframed into “Even though we have a long road ahead, we won’t stop until all the Earth’s animals are free.” Positive thoughts lead to hope, which can quickly curb emotional eating.
With consistent practice, these self-care skills will help you slow down and reconnect to your intuitive wisdom—you know, the part of you that chose a plant-based diet because it’s a win-win decision on so many levels. And that’s also the part of you that knows that taking the best care of others begins with good self-care.
PETA Prime readers can learn more about Julie M. Simon’s work at OvereatingRecovery.com.