Do you find yourself racing to the pantry or ordering Skip the Dishes when you’re feeling down, upset or stressed? Finding comfort in food is very common, and it’s important to know that you are not alone. This post will discuss various ways to combat emotional eating.
Emotional eating is eating to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Major life events or, more commonly, the stress of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt your weight-loss efforts. These triggers might include:
Although some people eat less in the face of strong emotions, if you're in emotional distress, you might turn to impulsive or binge eating, quickly consuming whatever's convenient without enjoyment.
Your emotions can become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you're angry or stressed without thinking about what you're doing.
Food also serves as a distraction. If you're worried about an upcoming event or stewing over a conflict, for instance, you may focus on eating comfort food instead of dealing with the painful situation.
Whatever emotions drive you to overeat, the result is often the same. The effect is temporary, the feelings return, and you likely bear the additional burden of guilt about setting back your weight-loss goal. This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle — your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for getting off your weight-loss track, you feel bad, and you overeat again.
Take away temptation
Don't keep hard-to-resist comfort foods in your home. And if you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you have your emotions in check.
Don't deprive yourself
This may serve to increase your food cravings. Eat satisfying amounts of healthier foods, enjoy an occasional treat and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.
Choose healthy snacks
If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a healthy snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip, or unbuttered popcorn. Or, try lower-calorie versions of your favourite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.
Keep a food diary
Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you're feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you might see patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.
Have a hunger reality check
Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a few hours ago and don't have a rumbling stomach, you're probably not hungry. Give the craving time to pass and keep yourself busy with an activity you enjoy. Another great tip is to drink lots of water because sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.
Tame your stress
If stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation, listening to music or calling a friend.
Instead of snacking when you're not hungry, distract yourself and substitute a healthier behaviour. Take a walk, watch a movie, read a book, listen to a podcast or journal how you feel.
You're more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Try reaching out to a friend, family member or a coach when stress is high.
Learn from setbacks
If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for preventing it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you're making in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that lead to better health.
Make sure to support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits. When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well-rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight towards comfort food. Exercise, sleep, good nutrition, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you through difficult times without emotional eating.
Always remember that you are not alone, and emotional eating is something many people struggle with. You are in control of your thoughts and your actions each day! If you work to incorporate the above tips you can become one step closer to breaking what may feel like a never-ending cycle of emotional eating.