Emotions can trigger behavior that can sometimes turn into negative things like overeating, not eating enough, or emotional eating. Challenges with emotional eating are not uncommon for people in recovery because it is a response to a difficult situation. Sadness can decrease or increase appetite. People with mood swings, or in recovery, might try to cope by doing the things they know they shouldn’t so they feel better. Find out why emotional eating can put people in recovery at risk, especially women, and learn how to cope better.
Eating in Response to Emotions
Emotional eating is anything a person consumes when they have a negative emotion or response to a situation. It might be they are on edge or hopeless. Eating when bored or isolated is also common. This is not because a person is hungry. It is because they are filling a void in the moment. Strong tendencies to fill an emotional void with food may continue despite:
- Having a full stomach
- Being busy but bothered by a need to eat
- Looking to fill a craving for sweets, something salty, or specific foods
A pattern of emotional eating can take people down the pathway of crossover addiction in severe instances. Crossover addiction happens when a person is in recovery but trades that addiction for something else.
Reflect on Eating Patterns
Look at the patterns of eating and how they occur. Think about the frequency and intensity of the cravings. It can be attributed to emotional eating if they are in congruence with an emotional situation, experience, or time in life. After a long day at work, even after dinner, it is not uncommon for emotional eaters to open the fridge looking for food. Food ‘treats’ to cope with stress or anxiety can turn into an addiction to sugars or candy to deal with stressful situations. If a person is feeling down, they may like to eat alone and stay isolated until they feel better. This can also perpetuate the issue of emotional eating.
To curb emotional eating, it might take speaking with a therapist, recovery professional, or doctor. There are many reasons people crave foods, eat differently than they should, and cope with stress. It is helpful to try and find some positive coping strategies for dealing with emotional eating. It begins with some of the following ideas.
Know the Cues
Start writing down a daily log of all the food consumed. Note the emotions that are happening at the time. Think about how to deal with those differently next time. If the family brings up painful emotions, and those gatherings are coming up, write down some positive ideas for coping. Talk to someone, share it with a therapist, and go to more recovery meetings if it helps. Don’t let other people trigger negative emotions and thoughts. Learn how to strategize healthy ways of coping.
It is easy to give in to eating when emotions are high. Exercise is a great way to recalibrate emotions into action. Log exercise and activity to boost mood. Do meditative breathing exercises, use social media, or engage in mental activities to combat boredom. Think about other healthy outlets that might work like being in nature instead of reaching for chocolate or soda
Unpleasant Feelings Happen
As fun as it is to feel happy and joyful, the reality is that life (and recovery) is not perfect. The world is not a place where happy and joyful people live all the time. It is unrealistic to imagine positive emotions can be there all the time. Learn to accept and expect the negative feelings. Learn to move away from judgment and self-shame by knowing this will pass. Even if it takes a while, talk it out with trusted advisors. Speak with people who will pour truth into the experience and not perpetuate negative, harsh criticism about your eating habits. Acknowledge that bad things happen, negative emotions occur, and there is hope for people to keep trying to do better next time.
As with anything in recovery, patience is critical. Wait a while to see if the cravings peak and go away. It might be worth talking to a doctor about medication. It may be worth exercising patience because it is harder to do that with oneself than with others. Patience is a useful recovery tool that will help bridge the gap in other hard circumstances. We are all human on the journey. Don’t be too critical of how quickly things shift or don’t shift. Admit it may be a while before they change, and that is okay.
If it is increasingly hard to change the pattern of behavior, it may be time to speak with a doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Recovery is a fragile time with lots of emotional shifts and moving parts. Be patient and be kind, but also practice good self-care and know when to seek help if things are becoming too hard to manage alone. There is help and hope.
Casa Capri works hard to ensure you have the best care by our female staff of professionals. We understand how hard it is to recover from addiction. We are here to support you and all the things you need on the journey. Call us if you are ready to get started. Call Casa Capri today: 844-593-8020
Melissa Holmes Goodmon is the founder and CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, a leading California addiction treatment center created just for women—by women. Melissa is a licensed clinician and has stayed on the cutting edge of women’s treatment since 2006. Because of her own beautiful recovery story, she is proud to be among a small group of trailblazers since founding Casa Capri Recovery for Women in 2011, leading the way for other women to join them in this otherwise male-dominated industry. She is considered an advocate for the recovery community in the truest sense, standing up to discrimination and legally fighting for the rights of sober people in recovery to live in peace. To learn more about advocacy or if you’ve experienced discrimination, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out casacaprirecovery.com for more information on our program, or please give us a call at 844-207-4880.