Does disappointment have you diving for the donuts? Do you soothe emotional ickiness with ice cream? Anger creating a hankering for apple pie? If so, don't feel too badly. You are not alone. Food represents so much more than basic nourishment, and our relationships with it can be quite complicated. A tasty treat can give us a bit of a rush. The act of eating can be a nice distraction from whatever unpleasant feelings we're having. Emotional eating in and of itself really wouldn't be too big a problem if our inclination were to reach for some carrots or whip up a healthful smoothie. But, as we all know, that is not what is typically on the menu.
This behavior can be problematic on many fronts, particularly if you are trying to lose weight or change your eating habits. It can trigger self-criticism and self-loathing, which just perpetuates the eating, creating a vicious cycle. We all have our moments of weakness and that's okay, but when we find ourselves regularly turning to our friend food to soothe ourselves, we need to take a look at what's happening and find a way to get a grip on this behavior. Here are a few interventions worth taking a look at:
Meditation is not just for hippies seeking enlightenment. While it certainly is a major component of spiritual practice for many people, the benefits are largely practical and secular. It helps calm the mind, reduces stress, increases awareness of our behaviors and motivators, and helps you adopt a healthier perspective, something with which most of us could use a helping hand. One of the primary benefits of meditation is helping us to get comfortable with uncomfortable feelings, and observing them from a more detached place. We don't get sucked in as much.
When we eat emotionally, we are doing so to make ourselves feel better, to get rid of unpleasant feelings. Meditating will help you sit with those feelings better, and the urge to just make them go away as quickly as possible will diminish. You will learn to simply observe them and wait for them to pass, which they surely will, no matter how intense they may feel in the moment. Meditating helps create a space between your consciousness and your thoughts and feelings, which are actually separate entities. From this position of
From this position of third-party observer, you'll be able to see what is triggering your emotional eating and get a better idea of why food is the medicine of choice. Armed with this knowledge you can lay the foundation for change. A review of 14 studies looking at the effects of meditation, published in a 2014 issue of Eating Behaviors, found it to be an effective intervention for binge eating and emotional eating.
Journaling can be a very effective tool for curbing emotional eating. By tracking food intake and your emotional state at the time, you'll discover your triggers. You'll get a better handle on when you're eating because you are hungry and when you're eating emotionally. You may notice that certain events, or very specific stressors, prompt emotional eating, or that you're more likely to do it at a certain time of day. This awareness will help you to develop strategies to cope more effectively. For example, if you notice that you tend to inhale a box of cookies right after work, you might decide to change up your routine by hitting the gym then, rather than going at your usual time. We often get so sucked into certain behaviors that we have no idea what is triggering them and this makes us feel powerless to change them. An activity like journaling can help us take back control.
This awareness will help you to develop strategies to cope more effectively. For example, if you notice that you tend to inhale a box of cookies right after work, you might decide to change up your routine by hitting the gym then, rather than going at your usual time. We often get so sucked into certain behaviors that we have no idea what is triggering them and this makes us feel powerless to change them. An activity like journaling can help us take back control.
MAKE STRESS MANAGEMENT A PRIORITY
This tip may sound obvious, but many people fail to recognize the full impact that stress has on our eating habits. Having a bad day, feeling sad or angry and eating to feel better doesn't just affect you on a mental or emotional level, it affects you physically as well. Emotional upset sets in motion a number of processes that can lead to cravings for unhealthy foods, like sugar-rich treats and pizza. When our ancestors had to run from predators and other forms of immediate danger, it was important that the body release stress
When our ancestors had to run from predators and other forms of immediate danger, it was important that the body release stress hormones to increase blood sugar and metabolize nutrients quickly to either help the person fight or flee. After the danger had passed, the body craved quick forms of energy to replenish its stores. Your body still goes through this process whenever you feel stress, even though fight or flight are probably not the appropriate responses and you probably aren't burning the calories that your ancestors would have. This can make stress eating even
This can make stress eating even worse since you are probably just sitting at your desk while stress hormones rush through your system, instead of racing across the plains fleeing a wooly mammoth. To make matters worse still, studies have shown that high levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — can cause your body to store visceral fat (the kind that hangs out around your organs), which means that the excess calories you ingest are even more likely to stick around your midsection. Knowing that stress is causing your cravings (and causing your body to store fat more readily) may help light a fire under you to find ways of curbing it. If you feel stressed, try doing something physical, like getting up and going for a walk or jogging up and down the stairs. That will help prevent cortisol from building up and may help you move past the craving too. Emotional eating can be a deeply ingrained habit, so don't expect to kick it by the weekend.
Be compassionate with yourself, and don't resort to drastic measures that cannot be sustained over the long-term. Committing to realistic goals that will help you to break the habit in the long run is your best bet. Article