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7 Rules to Stop Emotional Eating At Night
This is for people who have a strong need to stop emotional and night eating habits.
This is just a guide, a set of rules to help you stop emotional eating. We think these rules help bring clarity and a guide to help solve things.
One thing is very clear that emotional eating here is that 85% of the trouble with emotional eating is done in the home.
Whether it’s at home nibbling and snacking while you’re making dinner, (or right after work), or it’s snacking all night while the TV is on. It some times happen
when your mind is racing with thoughts from the day while you stuff your mouth with
potato chip after potato chip.
A few of the people say it lowed , "I know, I am missing the point entirely. I LOVE food. I will find any excuse to make crème Brule. I get lost in Gourmet magazine during work dreaming of what I’m going to have for dinner and when my family is together, the second our omelets and croissants are finished in the morning, we’re planning lunch. Food is the most wonderful thing in the world.
We know you guys have trouble at parties and trouble when donuts have been put in the office kitchen that you have to walk by at least 20 times during the day but we are going to focus on something that you have complete control over. “Your home”. And we are going to give you a set of rules. The rules will seem outlandish to most of you and we can say with 99% certainty that we will get a lot of pushback and be called maniacal.
This reminds us of a book called “The Rules". It was a popular book about “how to get a man” and it was a basic set of rules that “turned back the clock on the feminist movement” (that was the popular outcry). ” The modern version is something like “She’s Just Not Into You” but what We liked about "The Rules" book is that it was very clear and easy to follow.
The premise of the book was guys that fall in love - head over heels in love - need a chase. They need to win you. So forget calling them, asking them out. Let them take the lead. Just like they went out and did the hunting and gathering, let them “hunt” you. When you go back to the way men used to date, they asked you out, they pursued you and you made yourself busy and didn’t obsess about them calling and didn’t call them, you’d get the relationship you want.
The book was on Oprah and many people used this book as their bible and many women turned around their dating lives.
Many women were outragedsaying, how could you recommend that women become powerless? That they take a backseat? That’s basically urging women to become inferior!
But the “Rules” women and the people who liked the rules thought the contrary. They perceived this as getting their power back because as hard as it was to be disciplined and not call, they were getting a greater payoff – the man they always wanted.
Call it archaic, sexist, call it whatever you want but here’s my point:
There were clear rules to follow and if you followed these rules you would be “successful” in getting what you wanted. There’s something to that. When you have a clear set of rules that you know you can’t break (kind of like the commandments), you have a greater sense of how to get your goal.
So….here are my rules for the home. They may seem harsh. You may want to throw them out the window. Or you may find that they might work for you. Many of them are based in common sense and it's easy to understand.
1. You’ve Got To Clean The Junk Out Of The House
I’ve heard – but I can’t do this, I have teenage boys in the house! Or, why be such a zealot, I can just learn to have a small portion and still enjoy myself. Or I love food and no one can make me do this!! You’re absolutely right. I can’t make you do this and this is all up to you.
You have a choice
. You can keep doing what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years or you can make some changes and get a different result. The truth is, you can have a house junk free even with teenagers in the house. Your teenager will still love you if there are no cookies in the house (or will still argue with you, still throw fits).
This is a choice
. You can do this. When there is junk in the house, the emotional eating binge becomes VERY EASY. Almost effortless. You need to make it a little harder on yourself. Especially at 2 am in the morning. Many of you have insomnia and sleeping problems. No shocker there. Sleep problems can start at a very young age when it was a struggle with your parents and you could always get them to let you stay up just a little bit later. Or you’re drinking too much caffeine during the day and the stress is taking over.
If it’s easy to eat junk, you’ll eat it at 2 am in the morning
. If it’s hard, it will make it that much harder. The other day I was talking to a client who eats after dinner and I asked, what are you eating and she said, I start off with a square of unsweetened chocolate, then I move to a large Lindt bar of dark chocolate and then I start on the cheese. I said what kind of cheese? She answered, "Oh, I have the best cheese in the world." There was pride and delight in her answer. She has every kind of cheese she can think of and it’s all there right when she needs it most, when she’s trying to stuff down her emotions.
You have to mix up your patterns.
A tough fight with your husband means your favorite bag of sour cream and onion potato chips that sits “right there’ on the counter. In your mind, this has become as absolute as the concept of 1+2 =3. It’s almost as etched in your mind as solid as mathematics. Fight with husband + potato chips on counter = a typical night in the household. The only way to make a different variable is to change the variable. And the easiest way you have at your disposal to change that variable is to GET RID OF IT. GET RID OF IT.
I’ve been told I’m harsh from therapists
. You can’t get a patient to let go of something and not give them a replacement is what I am told. I will be giving you replacements in rule #4. I’m not telling you to not have food. I’m telling you to GET RID OF THE JUNK. Even Dr. Andrew Weil, in his book
8 Weeks to Optimal Health
has you strip your entire cupboard and refrigerator of all partially hydrogenated oils, and corn syrup and a variety of other “bad foods”. What you don’t have in your house, essentially, what you don’t see, you won’t have. Remember your mind sometimes, is an easy thing to understand: whatever it focuses on, it gets.
gives a great example of this. His analogy is that our mind is like a camera. It takes pictures. And those pictures become the memory. Let’s say you go to a party and your mind sees a couple fighting. You go home, and you think, wow, people really weren’t having a good time. Your mind took a picture, it focused on the people fighting and that became your impression of the party. Now if you go to the party and you see 2 people getting it on the corner, you go home and you say, "Wow, that was a hot party!! People were REALLY getting along! " Again, that’s what you took a “picture” of with your “mind” camera.
Whatever you see, this becomes your entire impression of life. If you’re always seeing cupcakes and potato chips and triple crème cheese in your house, you’re going to eat it. Why wouldn’t you? It tastes good and you LOVE it. But have you ever found yourself really feeling good and strong and happy about your choices and then, suddenly, you pass by a chocolate croissant and you can’t stop thinking about it? You weren't thinking about it before. You only thought about it because you saw it! And then you couldn't get it out of your mind.
There is a chance that you’re on your emotional binge at times in your home simply because you SAW it. It became your focus.
Time TO GET RID OF THE JUNK in your home.
Discipline is key and we all have it and we all exhibit a great deal of it but I want to ask you a question: life is already hard at times and requires courage and discipline every day of your life. Why make it even harder on yourself by having junk food around, all the time, at your fingertips?
You may be thinking, yes, I get this but I’m not going to be able to convince my husband to do this. Thanks, but this is just not helpful. I deeply understand this frustration. When we first got married, Habib would not stop bringing Entenmanns coffee cake and pints of vanilla chocolate swirl into the house no matter how much I begged, cajoled and pleaded. He said, "This is your problem and you’re trying to STARVE ME. "
You just don’t understand insane man hunger
I never stopped asking. And bit-by-bit, he stopped bringing it in the house. One thing at a time. I started to buy pretzels because pretzels were never a weakness of mine, I never even wanted one and he’d start to eat them instead. It took a long time – over 2 years – for him to understand how important this was but he finally did. I could have given up so many times and there was a lot of anger inside me. How could he not understand how badly I needed this?
emotional eating mini course
we talk a lot about Daniel Goldman, author of
. He talks about empathy.
talks about “seeking to understand’. When you seek to understand, you can get what you need. Instead of staying in my anger of “how could he not understand”, I started asking questions and I sought to understand. His dilemma was that he was hungry. And he needed quick access food. And if he had pineapple and cantaloupe cut up, he’d eat that too. He was also resentful that I always seemed to have food for the children but his food needs seemed to be last priority.
Once I started to
this and he started to see efforts towards his needs, he began to understand my needs. This might be different in your house but there’s sometimes a deeper issue that can be addressed that can bring you both to an understanding and get you both what you need. And what you need is to GET RID OF THE JUNK!!!
2. No leftovers hanging out in the refrigerator.
What is your first thought?? How could she be recommending no leftovers??? I have to have leftovers, it’s the only way I can get through my week and make sure we always have food for everyone.
I grew up in a house where there were never “leftovers” in the fridge. I was raised by a single mom and things like meat, or fish were bought in very small quantities. If she made a casserole, the 2nd half was going straight to the freezer for another night’s dinner. She served food on a plate and whatever was there was what we ate. There wasn’t a big casserole dish for 2nd and 3rds, it was restaurant style, and whatever you were served is what you got.
Do I sound like I’m being harsh? What will happen if there aren’t leftovers hanging out in the fridge? You won’t eat them unless you’re absolutely hungry. It takes more time to prepare something from the freezer and if you’re hungry you’ll do it.
Remember, I’m giving you rules to make things easier for you TO NOT EMOTIONALLY EAT and if things take more time, that might be just enough time for you to take to take a breath, or focus on why you’re upset. The space that you create for yourself between the emotions and your reaction is critical. This is a rule that helps create more space.
When you have that space, you have a lot of time to make a better decision.
3. You can’t eat anywhere but sitting down at kitchen, dining room table.
TV dinners became the must have in the 50’s. I remember my father-in-law telling me about his first experience when TV dinners came out. His mother put them in the oven, with all the tin foil and they all sat around the TV with trays and she came over and plopped the foil dinner in front of each of them and they all went “oooohhhhh”. He has a huge smile on his face as he tells me the story and remembers every detail of what was on the TV and what he ate.
I’m sure it was a relief to mothers everywhere!! I’m a mom and I know what it takes to have to have a sensible dinner on the table every single night after I’ve worked and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. And for some of you, eating with the TV on might be a cozy memory of being surrounded by the deep love of your family or the only time of the day you weren’t fighting with your sister.
But I’m telling you that eating in front of the TV, (and you already know this) leads to mindless snacking that never ends. Never ever ends. I have a strange reason for why I never ate in front of the TV: it was a rule in our house to only eat in the kitchen or dining room because my mom didn’t want crumbs anywhere else in the house. The fear of bugs and the thought of a stray crumb going behind the sofa or bedroom was way too much for my mom to deal with so eating anywhere else in the house was a big NO. So I guess I’m lucky in that respect because that was never a habit that had the chance to be formed.
I’m asking you to make a rule for yourself. If you’re only eating sitting down in the kitchen or the dining room table, you’re mindful of what you’re eating. You’ve prepared something. The “Mindless’ part of the equation doesn’t have a chance to form a deep grove.
4. The “readily available’ food, food that takes less than 5 minutes to make must be good for you.
This is a requirement. When food that “tastes good” and is bad for you takes so little time to prepare, it’s the first thing you’ll go for when you’re starving and home from a hard day of work or school.
Things like apples, pears, tabouli, celery with almond butter, carrots with hummus are all things that are “quick” go to foods that won’t ruin everything you work so hard to do. This is an easy rule for yourself and it’s really just an extension of rule number 1 to get rid of all the junk but I wanted to give you suggestions of what you might have in your house as the new “junk food”, meaning the new readily available food you have on hand when your emotions have gotten the best of you.
Because working on emotional eating and your responses and developing the habit to stop acting on your impulse is a process. You have to have a food environment in the meantime that will support you. These are readily available foods that will support you.
What were other foods that you had with your mom besides chocolate ice cream? Did she always put an apple in your lunch? If this just wasn’t the case, find emotional foods that do bring about care and love and happiness that are good for you. Start to form those emotional connections with love and health in the same way that the ones of love and comfort foods were formed.
5. Food is a luxury, treat it like a luxury.
Remember the movie American Beauty? Kevin Spacey and his wife (Annette Bening) had little love and emotion left in their marriage but one day, they start to reminisce about their younger years and when they were dating. They start to emotionally connect and began to kiss on the couch while Kevin is holding a beer. Suddenly, Annette notices the beer and says, "STOP! Don’t spill the beer on the sofa." Kevin replies, "But its just stuff. These are just things". And she replies that it is a $4000 dollar hand made Italian couch and she’s incredulous that he could be calling it just “stuff”. And he answers, “but it’s just stuff”.
The reality is that it is just stuff.
The stuff in your home might be luxurious and beautiful, but it is just stuff. But it’s not the smile on your partner's face. It’s not the love you feel when your child comes home from school and shouts “mommy” and runs to you with delight. It’s not your dog that’s always there for you, right next to you when you’re alone. It’s just stuff. You might treasure it. And that’s ok. But having the perspective that it’s just stuff and you’re lucky to have it is an important one.
Food is the same way. I don’t have to go into details about starvation throughout the world. You know it and it’s an ugly thing and you may choose to block it out of your mind. But we are a very lucky culture to have so much food readily available at the grocery store and easily procured and brought into your home. It is a true luxury to be able to have the vegetables.
I remember once reading about a Russian woman who came to this country and couldn’t believe that restaurants put all of the garnishes of tomato and lettuce and onions on the side. Many of us just ignore it and she ate it hungrily. She explained how hard and expensive and rare it was, a complete delicacy to have extra vegetables on her plate.
I also recently read a response from Olivia Palermo, a socialite, on how she stays thin. She answered something to the effect of what a luxury it is to have food.
Treat the food you have with kindness and respect and have a full understanding that it is just ‘stuff'. You are lucky to have it. If I’m making you depressed because this “stuff” is the love of your life, meaning food is the love of your life, I don’t mean too. It can still be the love of your life but treasure it and understand how lucky you are.
6. Buy different foods than you already have for your home.
Remember what I said – these deep emotional eating foods have made a very deep groove in your brain. They have formed a “math equation” and your brain almost goes on automatic drive to make 1+2=3. If you always have a cup of coffee with a cranberry scone, just the scent of coffee will most likely make you pick up a cranberry scone.
You need to make different equations in your brain. This is the new you, the one who takes different actions to get a new result.
This doesn’t mean that I’m asking you to get tasteless celery and suffer through your life!!! No way. That is NOT sustainable and I could never suffer eating things I didn’t like.
This means finding healthy alternatives in your home that you like as well. Maybe it’s raspberries. Maybe it’s tomato sprinkled with fresh basil and a little olive oil and lemon. I know there are things out there that you like and I want you to buy different things. Don’t just start eliminating the junk without making new purchases because if your brain still sees the same food, it’s still going to make associations with ice cream that used to sit right next to that frozen broccoli in the freezer.
You need to make new associations.
Start of with some frozen raspberries that sit right next to that frozen broccoli. If you’re trying to quit coffee, then “quit” something else you use to eat with it. Make new connections in your brain, a new “1+2=3.”
7. Create small little treasures throughout your home that make you feel loved and give you happiness.
This is my favorite rule because even if you don’t have a problem with emotional eating, this should be something you do anyway! Pictures of things you love are a great, inexpensive way to have instant feelings of love and happiness. Music that you love is another great way.
It’s amazing what one beautiful, scented candle can do for your bath. It’s late, you light a candle around your bath, you close the door and you get maybe the only time you’ve had for yourself that day. A plant that reminds you of a plant you had in your living room growing up, or a hook that you hang all your necklaces on or a letter than someone sent that brings you extreme pride could work.
In undergrad, I was incessantly mocked for my drawer of “things that I loved”. I shared a room with a roommate and it was tiny. I had no space; nothing that felt like it was mine except the wall above my bed and my drawer. I had pictures above my bed and a poster of
who I was a fan of at the time but I always loved my drawer. It had big velvet hair bands and my favorite pen, and scarves that I thought were beautiful.
It really was all the “little things” that brought me a total sense of identity. Many times we fill our house with stuff that other people will like, or kids toys, or we don’t have enough money to decorate in the way that we like so we throw up our hands and we don’t do anything. I’ve been in houses that have absolutely no personalization, only a cold decorators touch.
While I’m sure there is pride in having the money to have the house look exactly the way you always wanted, remember that having deep personal things that bring a sense of clarity and love around you help you feel calm. Whenever a family member dies, we all cling to the personal things left behind and when we want to revisit that person; we usually look to pictures or those personal things. It makes us feel closer to the person we lost. Having personal things around you that help you feel love creates an environment that helps you be kind to yourself.
Making a different choice - other than binging out of emotions - is a big step in being kind to yourself. I know you might feel a sense of control when you eat what you want and be damned with everyone else, but afterwards, the guilt and emotions surrounding the incident make you beat yourself up incessantly. Take the opportunity that you have to be kind to yourself and surround yourself with things that make you feel good. You can’t control the environment out of your house but you are lucky enough to be able to control your environment in your house. And when you do this, you start to feel good on the inside too.