We ’ re always told that emotional eating is a problem , an issue to be solved . But I think that ’ s wrong , and framing it that way is to deny ourselves an opportunity . Serotonin is a hormone that is involved in mood regulation , feelings of well - being , and happiness . It is mostly produced in our gut . When our gut health is sub - optimal , as is the case when we ’ re drinking , our production of serotonin is reduced . Alcohol often becomes the crutch we use to temporarily ‘ replace ’ those feelings of relaxation and well - being and mask the lack of serotonin . When we stop drinking gut health improves but it still takes a while to re - establish serotonin production . Effectively , the brakes are off the emotional roller - coaster , so what do we turn to for comfort ? Food . Right is associated with comfort . We cry we are fed . Then as we get older we start going to birthday parties ; cake . Meeting friends for an enjoyable evening together ? Dinner . Even in films if a girl gets dumped the first thing she does is grab a tub of ice cream . Every emotional or celebratory event is associated with food . Right from the second we are born we are taught to associate food and comfort , so why do we then beat ourselves up for reaching for food when we feel a hint of emotion ? Especially when our serotonin levels are likely to be low after we ’ ve stopped drinking . And let ’ s be honest , food isn ’ t really that bad as a coping mechanism . It ’ s certainly a lot better than picking up a bottle , or throttling the kids ! from when we are babies food
The drawback is when food is our only coping mechanism . Because while food can certainly soothe us in the short term , it doesn ’ t actually solve many problems in the longer term . Have a quick think about your typical triggers for emotional eating , and write them down in a column . For me , it ’ s usually boredom , stress or when I ’ m homesick . Then next to those triggers / emotions , write down a solution that might be more appropriate in actually addressing the source of the issue . If a specific food genuinely will address the issue that ’ s fine to write down too . You can write down several options for each , so that you have a quick two - minute solution , up to however long you want . For example , when I am stressed my two - minute solution is to take 3 deep breaths counting to three on the inhale and five on the exhale . If I have more time available I will go for a walk in nature . When I am homesick my quick solution is a cup of Earl Grey tea with a digestive biscuit , or my longer solution is to call friends or family from home . The more coping mechanisms you have , the less you need to rely on food alone , and the healthier your relationship with food can become . So why do I think emotional eating is such a great opportunity ? A lot of the time , we ’ re not very good at tuning into our more subtle emotions , especially if we ’ ve spent several years trying to mask them with alcohol . That ’ s where emotional eating comes in . When you find yourself reaching for the snack jar yet again , rather than tell yourself off for it , have a think about why that might be ? That urge to eat is not something to be stuffed down and ignored , rather it ’ s a clue that something is going on which needs to be addressed . By listening to your body with what I like to call compassionate curiosity you might just be able to learn a whole lot more about yourself .
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