Walking away from an addiction is a challenge. In order to build a successful recovery the individual will need to make many changes in their life. It tends to be an emotional time. To add to the challenge the individual will no longer be able to turn to substance abuse for solace. Even when the individual is firmly established in recovery, they will still have difficult emotions to contend with. Life is full of ups and downs for everyone and nobody gets a free ride. One way that people deal with negative emotions in recovery is by comfort eating.
Comfort eating is also sometimes referred to as emotional eating or feeding your feelings. It occurs when people eat because of their emotions and not because of hunger. It is believed to be the main reason why people overeat and so is one of the main driving forces behind obesity. This type of behavior is believed to originate in childhood when biscuits and other treats are used as a way to deal with unpleasant events. People develop the association between food and comfort so they continue to engage in the behavior as away to deal with uncomfortable emotions in adulthood.
When people are eating for comfort they will tend to turn to certain types of food. Individuals will have their own preferences, but it will often be food that they enjoyed as children. For example, in the US it has been found that females tend to prefer snacks such as chocolate or ice cream, while men turn to hearty meals such as steak or casserole. Many people will turn to junk food when they are battling with their emotions. This means that these comfort foods can be damaging to health if the individual relies on them too frequently.
The most common triggers for emotional eating include:
* Relationship problems
* Difficult or uncomfortable situations
* Negativity of fear of failure
A good diet is vital for physical and mental well-being. There are a number of reasons why emotional eating can be dangerous including:
* It causes people to become overweight. They are likely to be consuming a lot more calories than their body needs and this will accumulate as fat.
* It may lead to nutritional deficiencies. If people are eating a lot of junk food then this may mean that they are missing out on important nutrients. A balanced diet is crucial for good health.
* It can lead to sickness and disease. Being overweight is a contributing factor in many conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
* It damages self-esteem. If people are piling on the pounds it can be the source of embarrassment. They may feel less good about themselves which could lead to further comfort eating.
* It is a way to avoid problems. It is common for people to turn to comfort foods as a way to hide from things that make them feel uncomfortable. If they do not face these challenges they remain unresolved.
Those who have walked away from an addiction can be particularly at risk of turning to food as a way of dealing with their emotions. The first few months and years of sobriety can be like an emotional rollercoaster so the temptation to turn to food may be high. This individual can justify such behavior with the rationalization that they are better turning to food than returning to substance abuse.
The problem is that comfort eating is not a harmless activity. It can lead to health problems and interfere with the ability of people to fully enjoy recovery. It also usually means that they are running away from their problems, and this can be highly dangerous for people in recovery. Such behavior can be associated with the relapse process. Occasionally turning to food as a source of comfort is relatively harmless, but if people are doing this all the time in recovery it may spell danger.
There are a number or things that people can do if they want to avoid overeating as a way to deal with emotions including:
* Mindful eating is a type of meditation technique where people pay closer attention to the triggers for why they eat. This allows them to build a new relationship with food that will be far healthier.
* By developing effective coping strategies for dealing with uncomfortable emotions the individual will no longer feels the urge to turn to food so much. This could involve going for a walk or journaling.
* Talking to other people is an excellent way of releasing pent up emotional energy. Things can appear a lot different when they have been talked about openly. Those who are in recovery groups can talk about their problems at meetings or speak to their sponsor.
* Facing the root cause of the emotional discomfort is something that will need to be done in order to get past it. In a lot of cases the cause might not be so obvious. As people progress in recovery they tend to get better at working out their emotional triggers. This can be difficult for people in early recovery.
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