Ways to overcome emotional eating
Date published: Thursday, 24th March 2016
For emotional eaters, losing weight isn’t quite as easy as “going on a diet” or deciding to only eat when you’re hungry.
If you find yourself turning to food to help you cope with bad feelings, it is important to address the underlying cause of your cravings and find a healthier way to deal with your emotions.
Here are 10 ways to break the habit and overcome emotional eating.
To help distract yourself from food cravings and negative emotions, try to take part in an activity that you can get lost in and which will fully absorb your attention. Prepare a list of activities to do instead of eating, such as reading a book, playing a game, learning a language, creative writing, or doing crafts.
Identify your triggers
It is important to identify the triggers that cause you to snack if you are to overcome emotional eating. Different emotions such as boredom, stress, sadness, anxiety and even happiness can trigger food cravings, so it is important to identify which emotions trigger cravings for you, as well as which situations cause you to experience these feelings. By identifying triggers you can try to come up with healthier techniques to avoid or deal with these emotions.
Keep a journal
Many people use eating as a way to avoid dealing with their feelings. However, just as it can be important to distract yourself from dwelling on negative emotions, it is equally vital that you acknowledge your feelings and learn to express them. To help you get your feelings out, try to keep a regular journal where you can jot down your thoughts, emotions and experiences so that you can get them off your chest and also learn from them.
Call a friend
If you feel comfortable talking about your feelings, it can help to call a friend or family member to talk through your emotions, rather than relying on food to temporarily alleviate them. If you have a problem that is making you feel anxious or unhappy, speaking to a friend about it may help you to come up with a solution. Alternatively, sometimes just having a listening ear to open up to can help you to feel happier.
Recall a motivational thought or quote
We all suffer from cravings from time to time, so it can help to have a motivational quote or thought you can rely on to keep you strong in times of temptation. Next time you are tempted to comfort eat, remind yourself of the benefits you will gain from resisting (such as weight loss or a feeling of pride) or read through a list of inspirational quotes you have prepared in advance.
Find a healthy mood booster
Research has found that eating carbohydrates stimulates the brain’s production of serotonin – the happy hormone – which may be why many of us crave stodgy ‘comfort’ foods such as pasta and bread when we are feeling down. Next time you need a happiness boost, try using uplifting essential oils such as neroli and lemon which also stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain. Alternatively, listen to some music, which is a well known mood booster.
Another effective way to boost your mood without food is by taking part in exercise. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain such as endorphins and anandamide which can boost your mood and leave you feeling great. It is also good for boosting confidence levels and increasing self-esteem. Furthermore, exercise is a great distraction from food cravings.
If you are feeling emotional and are being plagued by food cravings, it can be beneficial to silence your thoughts with some meditation. Take some time to really focus on your body, feel your feelings and get in the present moment. Yoga and deep breathing are also good ways to silence your mind and promote relaxation.
Ride it out
Often we try to bury our feelings or eat our way through the pain of negative emotions due to a fear that we aren’t strong enough to cope with these feelings. However, it can be helpful to challenge this belief by allowing yourself to feel your emotions and to also acknowledge them as temporary and something you are able to get through. By choosing to ride out rather than stifle uncomfortable emotions, you will show yourself that you don’t need food to cope with negative feelings.
Get enough sleep
Sleep has a huge effect on our mood, meaning that you are more likely to experience negative emotions such as stress and anger after a lack of sleep. Not only that, you are less likely to be able to resist the temptation to comfort eat as not getting enough sleep affects our appetite-regulating hormones and also decreases willpower. To help reduce your cravings and improve your mood, make sure you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.