“I don’t have enough time to cook.” “It’s too expensive to make healthy food.” “I’m too tired to prep all these meals.” “I just want to be able to eat without all this worry.” While these may seem like reasons why you are not losing weight, they are, in fact, excuses.
The real reason you are having trouble losing weight and keeping it off has little to do with any of these things and everything to do with how you feel about yourself, about food, and about your health.
When it comes to permanent weight loss, your emotions play a much more significant role in your ability to overcome weight gain than nearly any other factor. Whether it is guilt over making an unhealthy food choice, anger over not being the size you want to be, or regret over past mistakes that you try to comfort with food, your emotions drive your eating habits.
And until you learn to identify and overcome the feelings that are standing in your way, you will not be able to lose weight and keep it off.
Knowing Your Emotional Triggers
The first step to identifying and overcoming the emotions that are keeping you from losing weight is to consider when it is you reach for comfort food. What we each feel is comforting may be different (salty, sweet, spicy, starchy, etc.), but there is probably something that you can identify as your go-to food or eating habit when it comes to emotional eating.
When do you seek these things out? Is it when you are happy and want to celebrate?
When you are alone? When you are bored?
Here are some common reasons you may be using food to satisfy your emotions.
You may be carrying a lot of behaviors and ideas about food around from when you were little, too. Did your parents teach you to associate food with love, with being a good person, with showing other people how you feel? Do you think that the only way to show someone you care is with cake?
Silencing Your Emotions
Sometimes, we eat to quiet the uncomfortable feelings that we do not want to acknowledge. This act of stuffing food into our mouths seems like a perfectly logical way to numb the sadness, anxiety, shame, or whatever other feeling is going through your heart.
Your Social Circle
Spending time with friends often focuses on eating or drinking, which can lead to too much of both of those things. Doing things because everyone else is doing them is a type of emotional response.
Filling the Void
When your life is lacking purpose, clarity, interest, or fulfillment, food can be a way that you try to fill the time. Food is a great distraction from the lack of meaning in your life. It fills you up, so you do not have to think about how empty you feel.
Responding to Stress
Eating to help you calm the physical response to stress is common. Stress causes the release of hormones which can make you feel hungry and edgy, and the more stress in your life, the more likely you are to overeat or make unhealthy food choices.
Overcoming These Triggers
Once you have managed to figure out which emotional trigger is leading to your behaviors, you can find new, healthier ways to confront and cope with these emotions that do not involve food. You can find alternatives to eating that help you manage your feelings.
You can become more mindful of your emotions, practice meditation, and even seek counseling to help you deal with deeper, stronger issues. But overcoming these emotions will be necessary to achieve the weight loss and health goals you wish to achieve.