How to Stop Emotional Eating
Many of us consider emotional eating to be outside the realm of our own normal behavior. But the truth is, most of us have experienced emotional eating at one point or another throughout our lives. Whether we are going through a stressful point in our lives or simply venting emotions that we have bottled up for a little too long, many of us will turn to food to help us cope.
This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the food we turned to for comfort was healthy for us, but usually, this is not the case. Emotional eating is more likely to include unhealthy junk food, ice cream, and other traditional comfort foods that make us feel safe or indulgent. This can lead to unwanted weight gain, cause a decrease in overall health, and can even make us sick.
These unfortunate side-effects can also lead to the added negative effect of guilt which damages out self-esteem and self-worth. Because of this, emotional eating can often cause a downward spiral create one of the most difficult situations for us to pull ourselves out of.
If you want to avoid falling into this spiral and continue living a healthy life then you must address any emotional eating the moment that you see signs that it may be occurring. Though it is never too late to being working your way out of this problem, it will become more difficult the longer you wait. Here are six steps that may help you on your journey to stop emotional eating:
The first step is to identify whether or not you are, in fact, an emotional eater. The easiest way to do this is by giving yourself a simple test. Read each of the following questions, and answer “Yes” or “No”. Remember to be fair and honest with yourself when deciding on your answers.
– Even if you are not physically hungry, do you sometimes eat anyways?
– When stress is around the corner or in full swing, do you find yourself eating to cope with it?
– Does eating make you feel better?
– Do you often get cravings for food out of nowhere?
– D you ever suddenly realize that you are eating something without even thinking about it?
– After doing something positive, do you ever reward yourself with food?
– Do you ever feel as if you are powerless or out of control and unable to stop eating?
The truth is that all of us probably answered “Yes” to at least one or two of these questions. That isn’t a problem on its own. We are all human and all of us will experience emotional eating at one point or another.
The problem is the amount of food and the types of food we tend to consume while stress eating. Being aware of the fact that we do this is a very important first step.
Emotional eating is often triggered by certain emotions or actions. These emotions fool your mind into wanting food even when you are not physically hungry. Things in your life that cause anger or disappointment can be triggers. Being stressed or bored can also be a cause of emotional eating.
The triggers vary from one person to another. One person might reach for a bag of chips after an argument with their partner, while another person might start eating chocolate uncontrollably when watching their favorite TV show or movie. What you’ll need to do is identify these moments when they occur and write them down.
Write down the occurrence or actions that caused the trigger, any emotions that you were feeling, and what/how much you ate. We humans obviously have a very wide range of emotions and reactions, so you should be diligent and try to be as detailed as possible.
Now that you know what triggers your emotional eating you can begin to plan what actions you should take to cope with these feeling. We know you eat, but we need to be more specific. What exactly is it that you do when you are triggered to eat?
For example, if you are leaving for work in the morning and you get into a fight or an argument with your significant other, what do you do next to fulfill the urge to eat? Do you stop at a coffee shop on the way to work and get a cinnamon bun?
Do you get to work and head straight for the fridge? All of this will help you work with yourself to fix your emotional eating. Again, write everything down and be as detailed as possible. The devil is in the details, and you don’t want to end up trying to fix the wrong thing.
Now that you know what triggers your emotional eating and how you seek it out, you can begin to replace your negative post-trigger reactions with positive ones. Instead of stopping at a coffee shop to get a cinnamon bun, stop by the park and take a 5-minute walk.
Instead of reaching for a bag of chips while watching TV, keep your hands busy with something else, like doodling or crochet.
Writing can be a fantastic coping mechanism to replace emotional eating. It doesn’t matter what triggered your emotional reaction, you can almost always get a similar emotional release by writing about it. Just be sure to let those close to you know what you are doing. The last thing that you want is for someone to stumble across a notebook full of all the anger you have felt during past arguments with no warning.
That can lead to even more trouble. If you have pets, try taking them for a walk whenever you recognize a trigger. Any small task that forces you to shift your focus can be used as a substitute for emotional eating.
Now that you’re ready to get started, remember to take it slowly. You won’t be able to fix everything on day one, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to. Approach each individual trigger and reaction individually and give it as much time and attention as it needs before moving on to another.
It typically takes at least one month of repetition to form a new habit, so this is a good starting point. It’s not an easy task, but with a bit of perseverance and dedication, you can succeed. If your negative reaction involves a specific type of food that you can’t seem to break away from, it might be a good idea to get rid of it and avoid it at the grocery store until your new habit is formed.
After a few weeks, you may surprise yourself by not even craving that specific food anymore.
This last step is often the most difficult. You will have to learn do directly deal with your emotions. The main reason we turn to food when we experience emotional triggers is because we don’t know a healthy way of dealing with our emotions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone and you are certainly not the only person you know that has experienced emotional eating or the feelings that push us towards it.
There are many resources out there that can help you learn to work through your emotions and find a healthy way out. Talk to your doctor and they will be able to help you find a method that is best suited for you.
We all eat because of emotions from time to time. It’s when we do it a bit too much or use it as a way to deal with them that it becomes a problem. Learn to recognize these signs and strive to fix them. We are all amazing in our way but none of us are perfect, so give yourself time and be kind to yourself as you work towards a better life without emotional eating.