Emotional Eating as a Way to Feel a Sense of Control


Do you ever notice yourself reaching for food when things in life feel out of control? All you want is a moment of peace and eating is a way to fulfill that emotional need. Let’s take a look at why we feel compelled to be in control, the role eating plays in creating a false sense of control in our lives as well as what you can do about it to break free of the emotional eating cycle.

Control = Survival

Women in mid-life are busier than they have ever been before. Pulled in so many different directions, between aging parents, family, jobs, community, and then there’s trying to find time to pray often, eat well & move more. More often than not, life can feel out of our control. And the need to feel like we’re in control is actually in our biology.

According to Dr. Judy Ho author of Stop Self-Sabotage, our need to feel control over situations is a survival instinct. When we feel like we’re in control, we believe we have the power to allow good things to happen to us as well as avoid what is potentially bad.

It served us well for thousands of years, but today, there are so many things beyond our control. It just ends up triggering the stress or fight/flight/freeze response. Leading many of us to reach for food to feel that bit of relief or sense of safety or peace in the moment.

Then there are the things we think we always have to say yes to. Filling our days with no time rest or recharge leaves us open to that sense of feeling like we have no control. Our busy schedules and the pressure to be productive every moment of every day leads to feelings of overwhelm, frustration, discouragement, disappointment and loss of control when everything doesn’t go our way.

Beyond Your Control

We all deal with or worry about things beyond our control. Things like:

  • A medical diagnosis (we receive or someone close to us receives)
  • A large unexpected expense
  • Things not going well with new changes at work or places you volunteer
  • Choices our children or other loved ones make
  • Challenges & struggles our children or other loved ones are going through
  • Road construction
  • Things we see & hear about in the news
  • How people interpret (or misinterpret) something we do or say
  • Natural disasters
  • What others are doing in regards to the pandemic

These and so many other situations like it, can leave us feeling anxious, worried, and feeling like we need to do something. Yet, most of the time there isn’t anything we can do other than pray (if we remember to). And turn to something we know will bring us even a fleeting sense of relief or peace – food.

Control & Food

From the very beginning of our lives we’ve associated food with comfort, a sense of safety, security, love, a sense of control. Over the years that gets ingrained into our brains, creating a very worn path: Eating = Sense of Control, Reward, Relief.

It takes us back to infancy when every time (or almost every time we cried), we were fed. We felt safe, secure, soothed and rewarded as we were wrapped in our parents’ or caregivers’ arms and received food. BTW – God designed us that way to make sure we did eat at that stage life.

But what happens when we don’t learn other coping strategies to help us deal with those things beyond our control as we get older? For most of us, we keep coming back to the one thing we always knew would make us feel better, even it’s only for an instant – food.

So what can you do about it?

While it is true there are so many things we don’t have an ounce of control over, we can always control our response to it. Below are a few things you can use, other than reaching for food, when you feel things are beyond your control.

Pray the Serenity PrayerGod Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

There are some things you can’t do a darned thing about, things you can do something about and others you’re just not sure about. Any of these situations can make you feel like you’re not in control. Taking time to regularly ask God what he wants you to do (including handing it completely over to him) will provide you with what you need, giving you a sense of clarity and control. Creating a new pathway: Prayer = Sense of Control

Menu Planning – Taking 5 minutes a week to jot down what meals & snacks you plan to have during the week (and the grocery list to go with it) will help you be intentional about what you’re nourishing the Temple God blessed you with. Making sure you have on hand what you need and are eating more real, whole food will also help you feel fuller and decrease the need to keep thinking about and reaching for food. Creating a new pathway: Food = Nourishment.

Move Your Body – That fleeting sense of peace you get when you eat to feel a sense of control is triggered by the reward system in the brain. You can also activate the reward centers in other ways – namely when you move your body, aka exercise. Taking time to move your body every day (or most days) will also create new pathways in the brain: Body Movement = Reward

Freeing Yourself From Emotional Eating in 30 Days – This on-line, self-paced mini-course will teach you the 5 steps I used to to break free of the emotional eating cycle I had been in for decades. Lots of times when I felt things were out of my control.

You will also learn about how your brain is wired to crave comfort foods as well as the tactics food companies use to hit your sweet spot and keep you coming back for more.

The best part? You’ll be able to shift your mindset as well as create and put into place strategies that work for you so you won’t be reaching for food every time you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, discouraged or disappointed because things are beyond your control.

As a bonus, for a limited time, this mini-course is being offered at a discounted price of only $27. Click on the link below to learn more & sign up today!

What do you do when things feel beyond your control? Share in the comments below. The more we share the more we can all

Enjoy the Journey!

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