It’s easy for someone to tell you, “Cut out processed foods and your golden!” Ya, right. If you are an emotional eater, your brain doesn’t always stay in common sense mode! Sometimes when we are stressed, tired, nervous or bored our brain says, “Head over to that big pantry because there are yummy, crunchy things to pop in your mouth to make you feel better and calm you down!” Who can relate to that? I know I can!
If you take the steps to combat emotional eating, you will be on your way to achieving your weight loss goals!
Tips to control emotional eating:
1. Log your food intake. Record the time that you eat, what you eat, the emotion that you feel and how hungry you are. If you make this a priority, you will undoubtedly see a pattern between your mood and food. You may even see a connection with a time of day that you are more vulnerable to junk food.
2. Strive to control your stress. Many of us are stress eaters. Learning to control it can prevent illness and reduce impulsive, stress eating. Find what de-stresses you. For some, it’s working out hard with cardiovascular exercise and for others a more calming activity like yoga or meditation is more effective.
3. Be mindful. Ask yourself if you are really hungry as you walk to the fridge. If you are not, ask yourself what emotion you are feeling. Try to tackle the cause of those emotions. If you are angry with your spouse, take steps to find a solution. If you are exhausted, find time for more rest. Are you bored? Find a distraction. Being mindful of your emotional health, will lead you to better habits in the long run.
4. Don’t deprive yourself. If you go cold turkey on your favorite forbidden food or drastically restrict your calories, a binge-eating extravaganza is likely to follow! Get a variety of healthy foods, enjoy a small sampling of your favorite ice cream or sweet treat every once in a while and don’t go hungry!
5. Use a hunger scale. Rate your hunger from 1-10, 1 being starving and 10 being overly stuffed. Try not to fall below a 2 and eat a combination of healthy protein, carbs and fat until you reach a 7.
Repeat this intake pattern every 3-4 hours and your blood sugars will remain more stable and you will be less likely to succumb to cravings.
6. Be prepared with healthy snacks. If you feel the need to ‘crunch’, keep carrots or popcorn on hand. If protein is satiating to you, keep low fat items like mozzarella sticks, deli meat or nuts nearby. Finally, if you keep a bowl of fruit or a tray of veggies front and center of the fridge, you will eat it!
7. Learn From Setbacks. Changing habits isn’t easy and setbacks are likely to occur. If you have an episode of emotional eating, don’t use it as an excuse to stop trying. Forgive yourself, be mindful of what sparked your setback, remember how far you have come, and wipe the slate clean. We all fall off track once in a while; it’s how quickly you get back on that makes a difference!
Emotions and overeating are often intertwined. If you suspect you have an eating disorder or are suffering from intense negative feelings that could be linked to depression or anxiety, seek out professional help. Trained mental health professionals can help you sort out your emotions, and not only help you with coping skills to combat emotional eating, but help you to achieve happiness and more stability in your daily life.