Have you ever stopped before you put a piece of food in your mouth and asked yourself WHY you are eating? Many people don’t eat to satisfy hunger. Instead, people eat to combat unidentified or unexpressed feelings, which is the definition of emotional eating.
Triggers for emotional eating:
· Bad Mood
· Good Mood
As you can see, emotional eating triggers cover a wide range of feelings. You can eat because you are experiencing positive or negative feelings, because you are overstimulated or because you lack stimulation entirely.
The problem with emotional eating is that it creates a vicious cycle that can be damaging not only to your weight but to your mental wellbeing and sanity.
For instance, let’s say you had a stressful day at work, so you stop along the way home and purchase a tub of ice cream, which you take home and quickly consume. As soon as you are finished, you look at the empty container of ice cream and feel guilty for overindulging. You then promptly start to calculate the extra gym sessions required to mitigate this binge.
Now, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty and frustrated because of the extra gym time you have just planned. How do you deal with these new emotions? Do you purchase another treat? This is how emotional eating begins to trap you in a vicious cycle.
How to Overcome Emotional Eating
Breaking the cycle of emotional eating starts with being more mindful of your emotional state when you are eating. The first step is to understand what emotions trigger the behavior. The second step is to create habits to replace emotional eating with healthy alternatives that positively impact both your physical and mental health. Below are some options for ways you can respond to the various emotions that trigger your emotional eating.
Stress or Anxiety
If you are triggered by stress or anxiety, you are unconsciously eating as a means to calm yourself. Some healthy alternatives you could try instead are:
· Yoga or stretching
· Meditation and deep breathing techniques
· Soak in a hot bath
· Read a book
· Create a list of things you are grateful for
· Colour in a book
· Listen to calming music
If you find yourself eating because you are low on energy, here are some healthy options for a quick boost:
· Walk around the block
· Stand up at your desk
· Do a few stretches to change your body position
· Listen to energising music
· Exercise or go to the gym
Loneliness or Boredom
If your typical response is to reach for the cupboards when there is nothing to do or no one around, here are some healthy alternatives to emotional eating:
· Call a friend/family member who makes you laugh
· Take your dog for a walk
· Take the kids (or dogs) to the park
· Take up a new hobby
· Join a gym or social group
The first step in breaking free of the cycle of emotional eating is realising that you are doing it. If you are reading this blog, you are aware that it is a problem for you, and you are on the right path to stopping the cycle and creating a new, healthier physical and emotional state.
If you need someone to talk to, feel free to contact us today.