There have been countless instances where I’ve found myself shoveling nachos, ice cream or third helpings of dessert into my mouth. Realizing my own utter gluttony, I’ll drop the spoon or the cheesey chip and think, “What in god’s name am I doing?” Because the truth is I’m not even hungry. I’m bored or annoyed or just craving something that has nothing to do with food.
It took me years to identify any of this as emotional eating. I think because almost all of my girlfriends experienced the exact same thing. We’d even declare Sunday as the “Day of Eating” which made it OK to binge on the “bad stuff,” i.e. s’mores, pizza, bagels with cream cheese, to list a few. And the next day, of course, we’d all be at the gym, furiously working off the excess calories.
Looking back, I see how incredibly unhealthy and unbalanced this was. Yet, so many people turn to food to comfort themselves. In order to forget feelings from sadness, anxiety, loneliness or boredom, they reach for high-calorie, sweet, salty and fatty foods. And usually, they wind up eating way too much, which of course contributes to weight gain and guilt.
The good news is, all of us can regain control of these habits and get back on the healthy path.
1. Learn to Recognize True Hunger
When a craving hits you suddenly, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” It’s important to gain awareness of what is making you want to eat. If you just ate an hour or two ago, it’s likely this is simply an emotional urge. Wait and allow the craving to pass.
2. Know What Triggers Your Cravings
Start keeping a journal of everything you eat and make note of your emotional state with each snack or meal. This will reveal any negative eating patterns and will allow you to become conscious of what triggers your emotional binges.
3. Find Comfort Elsewhere
Instead of grabbing that bag of Doritos, go for a walk, clean your room, create a list of things you’ve been meaning to take care of and start taking care of them!! If you feel stressed or sad, vent to a friend, write in your journal, deal with your emotions head on instead of numbing the pain with a candy bar. Food is a temporary relief; obviously, it does not fix the problem.
4. Remove Unhealthy Foods from Your Space
Having high-calorie snacks lying around will only tempt you as you try to overcome your eating habits. Get rid of any chips, cookies, ice cream, cheese … anything that is unhealthy. Refill your pantry and refrigerator with low-calorie items and avoid urges to shop for the bad stuff. Again, wait for those cravings to pass. This is about disciplining yourself. You can do it!!!
5. Eat a Balanced Diet
You’re transforming yourself by putting the effort into ending the emotional eating. Now it’s time to become passionate about your body. It is a temple and deserves to be fed only the best. So give it the good stuff — veggies, lean protein, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy. All of these things eaten in balance will give you more energy and promote all over wellness. Number one, eat breakfast. Number two, don’t skip meals. Number three, include foods from the food groups listed above.
I doubt anything can combat bad moods better than physical activity. It is the absolute best way to relieve boredom, fatigue and negative emotions. Why? Because exercise releases endorphins which give you an almost euphoric feeling post-workout. I know it’s difficult to jump into a cardio routine when you don’t already exercise regularly, but it can be done. And I promise you’ll feel like a new person once you do.
Here’s to beating emotional eating! Every one of us deserves to feel good about ourselves and you can and will accomplish this if you utilize the strategy I’ve discussed. Share your experience with us!