Break the habit with the help of Operation Transformation’s expert psychologist

So are you an emotional eater? Do you “comfort” eat or do you eat “junk” food as a result of your feelings instead of hunger. We learn from an early age that food brings comfort.

So are you an emotional eater? Do you “comfort” eat or do you eat “junk” food as a result of your feelings instead of hunger. We learn from an early age that food brings comfort.

By Dr Eddie Murphy

Last week I brought my two year old son for his swine flu vaccine and as a psychologist I was observing the behaviours around me.

What happened was very interesting my son was crying after his injection and as I was comforting him he was given a chocolate button by the practice nurse.

You see, from such a young age we are shown that our hurts can be healed by food. Think about it. often during times of happiness (birthdays) and sadness (bereavement) food plays such a central role.

So stuffing food in our mouths can become a habit when we are dealing with our emotional distress of boredom, stress, anger, loneliness, depression, relationship and communication difficulties, low self esteem etc.

In effect our eating habit stops us from learning valuable skills to solve our emotional distress.

This becomes a negative cycle where our overeating results in weight gain and more negative emotions – self-blame, criticism, anger etc

By understanding the triggers to our emotional eating and using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques we can learn new skills to deal with our emotional distress. With these skills emotional eating, stress eating, night grazing and mindless eating with subsequent weight gain are no more.

The following categories from CBT help us identify triggers to overeating

Emotions: Eating in response to stress, tiredness, boredom, anger, anxiety, depression as a way to self-sooth and comfort.

Situations: Overeating eating because of certain activities; watching TV shows, going to the movies etc

Thoughts: Self-defeating eating as a result low self esteem, self dislike, guilt and punishment and self of hopelessness.

Body Cues: Overeating as a result of body cues. How many times have you skipped a meal and over compensated, by eating in the supermarket while shopping, eating in the car on the way home, eating while preparing your meal, going back for seconds etc

Portarlington man Dr Eddie Murphy is the expert psychologist on RTE’s Operation Transformation. In the third of his six week series ofor the Offaly Express he looks at the emotional eating