Roger Gould, M.D.  

Specialties: Mental Health, Wellness, emotional eating

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How to Stop an Emotional Eating Episode (Part 2)

Jun 03, 2014 - 0 comments

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An emotional eating episode arises when you are confronted by difficult feelings. Feelings like loneliness, anxiety and anger. These are feelings you believe you can only manage (numb, avoid, deny) by eating. And the reason you maintain this false belief is due solely to the catastrophe predictions you make that overwhelm you in the moment.

Let me state that a different way: It is only because you feel overwhelmed by the catastrophe predictions you make when you're under emotional stress that you continue to eat emotionally.

In my previous post I identified the four triggers that spark these difficult emotions in you. They are:

    Feelings triggered by Events.

    Feelings triggered by Relationships.

    Feelings triggered by Unprovoked Feelings.

    Feelings triggered by Self-doubts.

In order to now identify your own catastrophe predictions, you'll need to refer to the list of feelings you created from last week's post. Doing this will enable you to see how you almost automatically turn your difficult feelings into catastrophe predictions.

#1 Catastrophe Predictions For Feelings Triggered By Events

Here are the typical catastrophe predictions (overwhelming fears) in this category:

    It's just too much for me to handle; I'll fall apart.

    This is just the beginning of a deluge of problems that will swamp me.

    This is a sign that my life is going to fall apart.

    I am being tested and I am going to fail.

    If this keeps up, I will just give up and curl up into a ball.

    I give up; it's just too much stress.

    I have to run away as fast as I can.

Take the particular event(s) and feeling(s) from your original list and tack on one of the of the above lines to complete your catastrophe prediction.

e.g. When I'm dealing with my sick parent, it makes me feel exhausted. On the drive home from the hospital I start to think that it's just too much for me to handle and that I'll fall apart. When I get home, I can't stop myself from bingeing."

#2 Catastrophe Predictions for Feelings Triggered by Relationships

The catastrophe predictions that accompany the feelings triggered by relationship friction have to do with the outcome of that relationship. From the following list of predictions ask yourself which ones you have tried to manage by turning to food. Again, you'll be using the feeling(s) and relationship(s) from your original list.

    I would lash out in anger

    I would burst into tears

    I would say or do something I regret

    I would melt into a puddle

    I would feel guilty forever

    I would never trust again

    I would lose the relationship

    I would quit or be fired

    I would hurt or damage the person beyond repair

    I would never forgive myself

e.g. "When I feel rejected by my boyfriend, it makes me feel angry as well as jealous of my sister, who is happily married. I'm afraid I'll lash out in anger at my sister. That combination of jealousy and anger is what makes me eat. I eat so angry words don't come out."

#3 Catastrophe Predictions for Feelings Triggered by Unprovoked Feelings

These arise from feelings like anger, loneliness and sadness that cannot be linked to a specific relationship or event, and usually strike when you're least expecting them (when you're driving, reading etc).

Go over the list of catastrophe predictions below and use your own life experience to choose the appropriate one.

    I'm not as good as I want to be and there's nothing I can do about it.

    It'll last forever unless I can figure out a way to get rid of it quickly.

    It'll lead to despair or the inability to do anything if I don't stop it quickly.

    I'll "explode," "evaporate," "disintegrate" or not be able to handle the emotion in some other way.

    My life is ruined; I have screwed up.

    I'll never be able to trust anyone again.

    I'll never be able to do anything right or be successful.

    My mind will just stop working and my thinking will never be clear.

    There is an endless ocean of tears inside me that will start flowing and never stop.

    I'll never be able to make a decision again.

e.g. Sometimes late at night when no one else is around, I feel lonely. I believe there is an endless ocean of tears inside me that will start flowing and never stop. And when I have that thought, I have to eat something.

#4 Catastrophe Predictions for Feelings Triggered by Self-doubt

The next time you're feeling self-doubts, and feel the need to run to the fridge instead of pause and think, see if you are thinking one of the false statements from the list below.

    This is the real me I have been hiding.

    If this is what I am, then there is no hope.

    This means I am a damaged person and no one will want me.

    This makes me unloveable.

    This is the reason I have to hide from the world.

    There is no fixing this.

    A person like this doesn't deserve anything.

e.g. I find I need to eat when I believe I'm unloveable. In that moment I believe that, if that's what I am, then there's no hope. And it's in those moments that I go to the kitchen and eat whatever I can find.

The Next Step

Once you've put together your list of catastrophe predictions, you're ready to move onto the next step of seeing your catastrophe predictions for what they really are: Black and white thinking...distortions of reality that won't really ever happen.

It's this examination of the facts that will empower you to finally stop running away from your feelings by turning to food. It's a big part of what we work on in the Shrink Yourself Program. And it's this next step that I'll be covering in next week's blog post.

And Remember

When all is said and done, if you truly believe your catastrophe predictions, then you'll have to conclude that you are hopeless and powerless to change (not realistic).

If you question your catastrophe predictions, however, you are suddenly in a very different position: A position of power and possibility, where real change is a choice you make (or not) by using your intelligent mind instead of your mouth and stomach.

Either way, the decision, and ultimately the power, is always yours to claim.

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