It really sounds like you are using food for a sense of comfort and safety. You eat when you are angry or depressed. You are not alone - this is probably the most common coping device that people rely on to get through rough patches.
It is important to know that sugar and starches (and chocolate) are ‘drugs’ to the brain, as they can significantly alter or moderate mood. Comfort food provides comfort. This is a neurochemical process that mimics the effects, even the high of other drugs. All these substances, i.e., food, alcohol, nicotine, enter the body and ultimately degrade to the same neurochemistry that is common to all pleasure, and all addiction. On the neurochemical level, you are eating so that the food will work like an antidepressant or like a drug or alcohol. If you eat too much food, you will get a 'high' and feel better, but then you will also experience the crash afterwards. Hence you likely get quite depressed after a binge of eating; see it as a hangover just like the alcoholic hangover for a drinker. This is what you have experienced.
Since you have found that when you have tried to stop, it is possible that you may have an underlying food addiction. Sugar and chocolate are both very addictive to some people. If this is the case, then the solution to stopping your eating pattern will be different than if you are simply using food to soothe your emotional distress on occasion. See if these questions apply to you?
1. Have you ever wanted to stop eating and found you just couldn’t?
2. Do you think about food or your weight constantly?
3. Do you find yourself attempting one diet or food plan after another, with no lasting success?
4. Do you binge and then “get rid of the binge” through vomiting, exercise, laxatives, or other forms of purging?
5. Do you eat differently in private than you do in front of other people?
6. Has a doctor or family member ever approached you with concern about you're eating habits or weight?
7. Do you eat large quantities of food at one time (binge)?
8. Is your weight problem due to you're “nibbling” all day long?
9. Do you eat to escape from your feelings?
10. Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
11. Have you ever discarded food, only to retrieve and eat it later?
12. Do you eat in secret?
13. Do you fast or severely restrict your food intake?
14. Have you ever stolen other people’s food?
15. Have you ever hidden food to make sure you have “enough?”
16. Do you feel driven to exercise excessively to control your weight?
17. Do you obsessively calculate the calories you’ve burned against the calories you’ve eaten?
18. Do you frequently feel guilty or ashamed about what you’ve eaten?
19. Are you waiting for your life to begin “when you lose the weight?”
20. Do you feel hopeless about your relationship with food?
Copyright © 2000-2010 Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
If you are a food addict, you may be happy to know that there is a solution. It is a simple solution but it is not easy.
How to help yourself is to deal with the obsession to eat the tempting comfort foods when upset. You will need to identify the triggering foods – As I said, sugar and chocolate are probably the most addictive food substances there are. Most of us struggle with sugar cravings at various points in our lives, but for food addicts, it is an all consuming daily struggle (especially when we are upset) that we always loose if we keep eating sugar. Remember: sugar = comfort = depression = cravings for more sugar or other similar foods.
Probably the only way that you can deal with the cravings for sugar is to STOP eating sugar completely. And you will have to stop eating refined flours, like breads, pastas, potatoes; these are all metabolized to become sugar within minutes.
This may seem difficult to do at first. It is a 'one day at a time' venture. At first, you need to know that you will very likely feel withdrawal: this will feel like increased cravings, agitation, irritability, and depression. You will probably find yourself giving in when you are hungry, angry, tired. These are the times that people relapse the most, as with any drug addiction.
The good news is that it only takes about three weeks for cravings to start to subside IF you stop eating junk food completely. Your mood will probably improve as well - and then the normal upsets of the day will not appear so difficult to manage. You might be able to stand up to them without the need for 'comfort'. A food addict struggles with moods that are exaggerated because of the drug (sugar, starches) in their system.
You might find that you can 'get away' with eating junk food once in a while - IF you are simply an emotional eater. But if you find that you simply keep relapsing back to your depression and junk food fix, then you will have to stop completely. You can no longer 'cheat,' even once in a while. That will only magnify the cravings for your tempting foods.
There are 12 step support groups like Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addiction in Recovery Anonymous – full of people who can support you in this new way of life.