Just as I was literally putting pen to paper on this, I was unexpectedly messaged by a woman, whom I have not even met, seeking my guidance and assistance on her current battles with Emotional eating (EE). Her pleas were desperate but specific, where vicariously I could already feel her pain. As we speak, I have not yet sought to help her – but if she wants I will. This is an all now far too common series of events, where many are overeating because they are unhappy. And in such unprecedented COVID times, where life is SO tough right now, the problem is becoming exponentially exacerbated all the time.
And dangerously so.
I am going to begin with a definition, because this one is particularly succinct, and sums everything up really well:
“Emotional eating is defined as the propensity to eat, in response to positive and negative emotions.”
Herein there does lie the heart of the problem. Whilst many believe they are comforting the soul with their food, these people (inadvertently or not) lack the control, self-discipline and fortitude to know when to stop. It is essentially a maladaptive ‘strategy.’ As we can see too, the umbrella term also encapsulates people eating to excess when they are happy as well. In other words or perhaps more simply, many nowadays find it increasingly difficult to separate our emotions, from what we are actually putting in our mouths.
And it is killing us.
Slowly but surely, it is.
I am a PT but also an academic in Sport Science and High Performance. I have studied, researched and practised Exercise Physiology and Psychology my whole life. My working life continues to espouse the perils of the Metabolic syndrome. That is, how dangerous high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist (visceral fat) and abnormal cholesterol levels are for us. The syndrome also increases a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke as well.
Why am I mentioning this??
Because it is about time people started paying attention, to what the perils of EE can do, in stark light of the above. We as fitness professionals have our work severely compounded, by what people are savagely doing behind closed doors. Some may be ‘closet’ eaters, whereas the majority of others simply have little to no systems of restraint – even in public view. But what I do know and have seen with a degree of confidence, is that people are covertly killing themselves even though they may not knowingly think otherwise.
Obesity and Diabetes Mellitus still remain at the forefront, as comorbidities that are still in the top ten causes of death globally.
And they are getting worse, day by day, country to country.
Why am I writing this?
Because I know.
I’ve definitely been there and done the hard yards like a lot of you have also, may currently be doing so, and sadly will experience in the future. What I can now proudly say, is that for many years now, I have adeptly learnt how to recognise these situations from afar. Being able to distance oneself from food, as the sole outlet of emotional recourse, takes more than just pure self-discipline. It involves time, practice, and the love and support of those around you, just as it was in my case long ago.
EE is essentially a growing pandemic in itself, and something to be treated with the utmost level of care and respect, if it is to be won over by the many of those who are dealing with it day by day.
If you need the help, now is the ideal time to ask for it.