Food has such a powerful place in all of our lives. It’s how we bond with our families as we grow. Food has very powerful cultural and ethnic roots in all our societies. It’s there when we celebrate and it’s there when we mourn. When you stop to think about it, eating and food is the one thing that we do every single day where we use all of our senses.
We see the bright red color of a delicious apple, we smell the aroma of cinnamon and crust from a freshly baked hot apple pie, we taste that sweet sugary goodness of the pie and feel the texture of it in our mouths and we are aware of our surroundings filled with family, friends, and hear the sounds of laughter. When you are using all of your senses, you are truly alive. Do you wonder now why food has such strong, powerful, emotional connection to all of our lives?
However, emotional eating can sabotage your weight-loss efforts permanently if you are not careful. Emotional eating often leads to eating too many high-calorie, sweet, and sugary foods. The good news is that if you are prone to emotional eating, you can take steps to gain control of your eating habits and get control of your life and your weight.
Emotional eating is a way to deal with negative emotions.
Emotions such as anger, anxiety, boredom, fear, sadness, jealousy, stress, and loneliness can all trigger a feeding frenzy. Just the hassles of daily life can produce negative emotions that lead to emotional eating, which can destroy all of your efforts. Getting control over these triggers is possible, and it starts with identifying them.
These are some very common reasons for emotional eating:
- Loss of a job
- Death of a loved one
- Financial pressure
- The “D” word
- Work stress
- Getting Married
- Strained relations with family and friends
Not everyone displays emotional eating the same. Some people actually eat less when challenged by strong feelings. Others in emotional distress may turn to binge eating, rapidly eat whatever is available without ever even taking the time to enjoying it. Your emotions may become so hard-wired to your eating habits that you automatically reach for junk food whenever you feel stressed without stopping to think about what you are even doing.
Related: How to get more “feel good” by increasing dopamine
Food is a wonderful distraction from the stresses of everyday life. And it is easy to find comfort and pleasure in all that sugary goodness when you perceive that things in your life are not going well. If you’re worried about an upcoming event such as a wedding or stewing over a relationship conflict you may focus on eating comfort food instead of dealing with the painful situation, which requires healthy coping skills, emotional strength, and delayed gratification.
Whatever underlying emotion drives you to overeat, the end result is always the same. The emotions return, and now you bear the additional burden of guilt about failing to keep your weight loss commitment. This can lead to an unhealthy cycle. Your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for overeating and falling off your dietary plan, you feel badly, and what do you do, you overeat again.
So what can you do to stop the emotional eating?
I am hear to tell you there is hope, and it all starts with awareness of your behavior! Negative emotions can trigger emotional eating but the good news is you can take steps to control the feeding frenzy and keep your weight loss efforts moving forward. Here are some useful suggestions to help control emotional eating:
Reduce your stress. If stress contributes to your emotional eating try exercise like yoga or breathing relaxation. Also, dealing with the stressor head on and solving the issue rather than letting it smolder in the background is always a sound strategy.
Are you really hungry? If you ate just a few hours ago and do not have any physical signs of hunger than you are probably not really hungry. Drink a full glass of cold water first and give the craving a little time to pass.
Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you are feeling when you eat. Over time you will see patterns emerge that reveal the connection between your mood and food that you choose to eat.
Find support. You are more likely to suffer from emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Looks towards your family and friends or consider joining a support group. Associate with other health focused people.
Fight boredom. Instead of snacking when you are not hungry. Discover an activity to distract yourself. Take a walk, listen to upbeat music, watch a movie, read a book, surf the Internet or call a friend.
Remove the food. Eliminate supplies of comfort foods in your home. And if you feel emotional delay your trip to the grocery store until you have calmed down.
Reward yourself. It is important to reward yourself for the goals you accomplish along the way. It is neither reasonable nor healthy to restrict your calories for too long a time period. Having a favorite food or meal once every week while trying to loose weight is good for your body and soul.
Eat healthy snacks. If you get hungry between meals choose a snack such as apples, berries, or celery. Or try low-fat cottage cheese with fruit.
Get enough sleep. Getting adequate sleep is important to decrease cravings for carbohydrates and sugary junk food. Some of my worst food frenzies came when I was stressed and exhausted from being over worked. Learn to relax and rest your body every night.
Consider counseling. If you have tried these options and you still can’t get control of your emotional eating, I would consider seeking therapy with your health care provider. Emotional eating therapy can help you understand the motivating factors behind your emotional eating and help you discover new coping skills. If you have an episode of emotional eating, learn from the experience and the very next meal eat healthy.
Haven’t Been Feeling Like Yourself Lately?
It’s that nagging feeling that something does not feel quite right and you can’t put your finger on it. You’re a busy person and your own health is the last thing you have time to think about, but think again!
To your health,