Dealing with Emotional Eating, from a Man's Perspective

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Hi, my name is Jerome and I am an emotional eater. 

There, I said it.  

I mean, I’ve said it before out loud.

But I thought it was important that I write it down. 

I am a man who is an emotional eater. 

You know what emotional eating is, right?  Any time you feed a feeling and not a growling stomach you're emotionally eating.  Absolutely, we all emotionally eat now and then.  Sometimes we even feed a happy feeling.
Show of hands: how many of us have taken our kids out for a celebratory meal for good grades? Or a home team victory?
It is when this once-in-awhile occurrence becomes a daily necessity when the trouble begins.  When, we begin to tie food to our emotional stability, or rather instability, that we become emotional eaters. 

I know what you’re thinking, “Do men really have a problem with that?”  I’m here to tell you yes!  Men have issues with emotional eating just as women do, we just don’t want to admit it.  I recently read that men constitute about 10% of all emotional eaters.  I don’t believe that, at all!  This is one of those topics that men have our guard up about.  It is one of those topics that is off-limits to talk about.  Knowing that a man’s body burns fat easier than woman’s does, it can be easier for a man to stay thin while emotional eating.  However, as men get older and our metabolism slows, it can catch up with us very quickly.  I look at my own children now and wonder what they were seeing in me when I was always cramming food in my mouth. 

What sort of a of role model was I? 

What was I teaching them? 

Was I giving them "permission" to eat emotionally by following my lead?

It’s time to stop the cycle! I’m saying it’s time for men to start taking a look at their eating habits and be honest!  Seriously, I have learned that I would much rather talk about the issue at hand, rather than push it under the table and just keep killing myself.  That’s what I was doing for nearly a decade, emotional eating, not dealing with issues and forcing myself to the grave too early. 

Here are a few signals that you might be an emotional eater:
  • Emotional hunger is a very urgent feeling of hunger; physical hunger comes much more slowly
  • Eating to fill a void is typically filled with junk food, your favorite foods, your cravings, etc. 
  • Feeding the emotional need never seems to get full; you keep eating until the emotion is full.  At this point your body is beyond full.
  • Guilt.  Have you ever eaten, and eaten, and eaten, then felt really guilty about it?  You are probably feeding a feeling, not a physical need to fuel your body.
Now that we’ve talked about what emotional eating is, let’s take a look at how we can manage our habits. 
  • Recognize emotional eating in  yourself and what your triggers are
    • This seems like a simple step, however admitting to yourself, especially as a man that you are feeding a feeling isn’t easy.  It’s not manly to admit such a thing, I get that.  I speak from personal experience when I say I know how hard it can be to admit this to yourself or others.  I learned that I have a hard time controlling my emotional eating anytime there is stress or conflict.  This stress might be caused by a work situation, children fighting, or on a particularly sensitive day, the traffic.  You name it, and I’ve probably dealt with it.
  • Make a list of things to do instead of feeding that feeling
    • We’ve all heard the saying “if you fail to plan, plan to fail.” Well, I’m telling you that fits this situation perfectly.  We must have a plan to assist ourselves when we feel the need to emotionally eat.  For me personally, the number one thing I try to do rather than feed my emotions is talk it out with someone I trust.  That is person for me is my wife.  After discovering that I had a problem with emotional eating, she has been a partner in "recovery."  I call it "recovery" because that’s what it is.  I am still in recovery from emotional eating.  I still have bad days, but they are becoming few and far between. 

      Talking with my wife helps me in dealing with the conflict.  She knows how to "talk me off the ledge."  She now knows what to look for and can tell by my actions that something is bothering me.  Sometimes she has to drag stuff out of me and sometimes I just spill it.  The second thing I do is keep myself busy when I feel that emotional eating may come into play.  Some of my best workouts are when I’m frustrated or dealing with a tough situation.  Taking the emotions out on a workout is a great way to burn even more calories!  If you’re at work, get up and take a walk, even a short 5-7 minute walk with a bottle of water in your hand can make a huge difference.  Fitness is a MUST for so many reasons in my life!
  • Find a comfort food that’s healthy!
    • Thinking about a plan to help deal with an urge to eat emotionally.  I started taking my lunch to work every day.  I pack snacks with my lunch that varies from my favorite granola bars to carrots.  Doing this allows me to control what I’m eating.
  • Allow yourself some "wiggle room"
    • Let’s face it: We are going to have bad days. That is just how life works.  Over time, we have to learn how to deal with our emotions in a healthy way so they do not derail our journey.  Allow yourself that "wiggle room" and move on with your day.  This is when you have to recognize what you’ve done and act on your plan to deal with it. 
Discovering I am an emotional eater was huge for me.  This is something that took about a year into my journey for me to realize as I worked through all the facets of a life transformation.  I mean, that’s why we are all here, right, to transform our lives?  When my journey started, I set out to lose weight, I never dreamed of losing so much baggage as well.
I want to encourage you to be mindful of the journey. Every turn, every curve ball, every emotion, everything that comes your way will teach you something about yourself. Embrace those lessons and learn from them, you might find yourself facing the same issue one day down the road.  Share those lessons with others you talk to, you might say something that triggers that person into action.  That is the spirit of SparkPeople and what makes this community so special!

Do you think men are less likely to admit that they are struggling with emotional eating? Why or why not? What helps you deal with emotional eating?