Most of us have at some point experienced emotional eating. I was once an emotional eater and still struggle with it. We often use food to celebrate, to comfort ourselves or even to alleviate boredom. Once in a while is okay but when emotional eating becomes a regular habit that’s causing you to feel guilty and out of control it becomes a problem.
Are You An Emotional Eater?
Let’s take a closer look at what emotional eating is:
- Emotional hunger will cause you to crave specific comfort foods. Try this out the next time you think you might be experiencing emotional hunger: ask yourself if eating something healthy like some fruit or vegetables will satisfy you. If the answer is no and all you can think about is junk food you’re more than likely trying to soothe yourself, or celebrate something. Your body doesn’t need it but your mind is telling you that you need it.
- Emotional hunger most often leads to mindless eating. When you’re eating to deal with your emotions you can easily eat an entire bag of chips without even really being aware of it and without even really enjoying it.
- Emotional hunger doesn’t go away just because you’re full. When you eat in response to emotions you won’t want to stop just because you’re full. You’ll want to keep eating to avoid the emotion you don’t want to feel. Unfortunately, until you deal with the emotion and allow yourself to feel it and just accept it no amount of food will help you. If anything, it will make you feel worse.
- Emotional eating often leads to guilt, shame and regret. When you eat due to physical hunger you’re giving your body what it needs which is a good thing so you feel good about it. If you’re feeling guilty or shameful after you eat, quite likely it’s because you know deep down that you aren’t eating for nutritional reasons.
How To Combat Emotional Eating
It’s not easy but you can do things to help stop emotional eating. Here are some tips:
- Identify your triggers. Do you find yourself eating in response to stress? Sadness? Happiness? Boredom? Figure out your trigger and have a plan for when you’re feeling these emotions. Maybe you need to go for a walk, or answer e-mails or talk to a friend. Have a plan for when you’re experiencing your trigger moods and be sure to implement it.
- Tell someone close to you that you need their support. When you feel like you need to turn to food for comfort contact that friend and tell them what you’re feeling. The time spent conversing with this person may even outlast the craving.
- Keep a healthy kitchen. We all have certain foods that give us comfort. Having them once in a while is okay but having them on hand all the time is a recipe for disaster. You might be having a craving for something that will calm you but if it’s not in the house you probably won’t go out to buy it. If you do decide that you’re going to go out and buy it walk to get there. This will give you some time to think and the fresh air might actually work to calm and soothe you.
- Keep yourself busy. This is particularly important if you eat out of boredom. Don’t let yourself get bored – take up a hobby, start a blog, connect with friends online, adopt a pet, take a course to learn something you’ve always wanted to know more about. Find some sort of non-food activity that comforts you and helps you feel fulfilled.
You Can Do This!
Emotional eating can be very hard to overcome but you can do it. Think about how it makes you feel when you eat your emotions and decide that this isn’t good enough for you anymore. You deserve to be happy and feel in control. Decide that your well-being is more important than the short escape from reality that food gives you and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.