Eating should be about satisfying our hunger, however; for many of us it’s much more than that. Women especially often turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. That is what’s known as emotional eating, and it can have a real effect on our emotional problems. Rather than feeling better, we feel worse; with the original problem still present and guilt for overindulging. The key to stopping this vicious cycle is to recognise your emotional eating triggers. Let’s take a look at the best ways to stop emotional overeating before it’s too late:
Answer these questions honestly to find out if you’re an emotional eater:
- Do you eat more when you’re down or stressed out?
- Do you eat even when you feel full or not hungry?
- Do you eat to make yourself feel better when you’re bored or anxious?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you feel out of control when it comes to food?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it sounds like you’re an emotional eater. Let’s take a look at the best ways to beat emotional eating:
Identifying Your Triggers
Are there certain situations, places, or feelings that make you run for comfort food? The majority of emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, however positive emotions can also trigger it. Here are the common causes of emotional eating:
- Stress – stress triggers the hormone cortisol, which in turn gives you cravings for salty, sweet, and high in fat foods. These foods are supposed to give your body a boost in pleasure when you’re feeling low.
- Stuffing emotions – emotional eating can be used to stuff your emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and shame.
- Boredom, or feelings of emptiness – you might eat to fill a void in your life, or to simply cure boredom. Food can be used as a way to occupy your time, and distracts you from underlying feelings of dissatisfaction with your life.
- Childhood habits – this can stem from your parents giving you food to cheer you up and reward you, and even to create feelings of nostalgia (like eating a big plate of spaghetti round the table with the family).
Keep an Eating Diary
The best way to stop your emotional eating is to keep track of your mood and food with a diary. The second you begin to crave something, write down why you think it’s happening. Has something happened today that you might be overthinking? Write down how you feel before a craving, and how you feel if you give into a craving before, during, and after.
Find Other Ways to Feed Your Feelings
You need to find other ways to fill your triggers emotionally. Simply understanding the process and why you do it might not be enough; you need to find an alternative to food for that emotional fulfillment. Smoothies, juices, and protein shakes might be another way to feed a sweet craving if you feel you need something fast – rather than reaching for a chocolate bar!
Stop When a Craving Hits
You have more power over your food cravings than you might think. Try to pause and reflect on what you’re doing when a craving hits, so you can perhaps make a different decision. Instead of telling yourself you can’t give into a craving, simply tell yourself to wait, whether it be for 1 minute or 5 minutes. As you do this, think about how you feel. Even if you give in to your craving, you may be able to manage it better next time.
Food can be very difficult to deal with, but you do have the power to do it. Stay vigilant and realise that although you might love food, it doesn’t love you back!