Let’s be honest... are you always hungry when you eat? Or, do you sometimes use food as a comfort or distraction when you are feeling anxious, angry or upset? Could work stress, spouse arguments, or an all-around low mood be causing your waistline to expand? Many of us don’t often see that we are emotional eating. Emotional eating happens whenever someone has a strong emotion that they don’t know exactly how to handle, and they channel it into an eating experience. Don’t be fooled, stressed, angry, or upset aren’t the only emotions that cause emotional eating…happiness is another common emotion that people don’t realize can cause binge eating. Think about being around friends and family during holidays or events. You are usually happy, and tend to eat more. When you occasionally turn to food to celebrate or forget your troubles, it doesn’t mean that you have a problem. It’s when you let your emotions frequently dictate when and what you eat. This can hurt your fat loss efforts while leaving other issues or problems in your life unresolved.
There are ways to overcome emotional eating. First, you will want to figure out exactly which emotion triggers you to eat. Keeping a food journal can help you determine this. Write down exactly when you ate, what you ate, how you felt, whether you were actually physically hungry, and how you felt afterward. If you track your emotions and what you are it eating, it will help you to determine what types of feelings tend to drive you to emotionally eat.
Next, what you will want to do is figure out alternative behaviors to help deal with these emotions. Some good examples are to call a friend, go for a walk, read a book, or indulge in a hobby you have. If you are tracking your behaviors in your journal and start to feel yourself slipping into a bag of cookies, you can acknowledge that pattern and choose an alternative behavior that will help you fight the urge.
Another step is to focus on your food. Use all of your senses to really enjoy what you are eating. Don’t watch TV, talk on the phone, or be distracted in any way. Remember to always include your favorite foods regularly into your diet. If you love chocolate, allow yourself one small chocolate square after dinner. Or, if you love pizza have it one night a week. By not following a super restrictive diet and you allow yourself to indulge every once in a while you are less likely to turn to food for emotional reasons.
Overcoming emotional eating isn’t easy. You have to commit to dealing with your feelings and not using food to comfort you. Expect some setbacks, don’t let them deter your progress. As you develop new habits, you will no longer reach for food when you become overwhelmed or stressed. In addition health coaching can help you overcome these obsticles with added support.