Emotional eating is consuming food when you are not hungry but have the strong urge or craving to do so. It is when you unconsciously turn to foods to cope or suppress your negative emotions or to stop thinking about your problems or fears.
The foods that provide comfort are usually those that contain high calories. Eating foods that are sweet, salty or are fattening makes you feel better because these foods release certain neurochemicals in the brain that produce a good feeling. This is probably one of the reasons why you have not succeeded with any diet or weight loss program.
There are several causes of emotional eating and one of them is your brain’s association to foods. You have conditioned your brain to use foods to drown your sorrows. Some deep rooted issues during your childhood or adolescence may also contribute to the eating problem. Another possible cause is that you you don’t know or don’t want to use other ways to solve your problem and manage your feelings except to eat.
To overcome it, the first thing to do is to recognize and acknowledge that you have the issue. Once you have admitted it, you can follow these 5 ways to stop emotional eating.
1. Self Evaluation
If you are stressed, anxious or worried, write down everything that is bothering you. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed but do not know the actual reason or underlying issue. When you write down, you will see the actual problem.
Notice your views about life, situations and people. If you are a pessimist, you will tend to see almost everything negatively. This will cause fear, anxiety and undue stress. Train yourself to focus on the positive. Expect good things to happen and find ways to feel happy a majority of the time. One of the ways to do that is to recall or create pleasant mental images in your mind.
2. Keep a Mood and Food Diary
Monitor your eating habits with a mood and food diary. Take note each time you feel like eating when you aren’t hungry. Look for the triggers. Were you feeling stressed, anxious, sad or fearful? Was it because you were feeling bored, discouraged or lonely? Identify the patterns and occurrences so that you can overcome or avoid them.
And look at the foods that you have picked to overcome your cravings. Most likely you did not choose fruits or other healthy foods but instead went for ice creams, doughnuts or chips.
3. Replace Eating with Different Activities
Once you have identified the triggers, you can find the solutions. If emotional eating is one of your ways to cure boredom or loneliness, what you can do is list some other alternatives. You can call a friend and talk, go out and take a brisk walk or do any other physical exercise or activities that you enjoy and will make you happy. You can also start learning and practicing yoga or meditation or engross yourself in a hobby.
By doing something different and not submitting to your cravings for food when you have the urge to eat, you interrupt your normal patterns of thoughts and actions. If you do these pattern interrupts often enough and you reward your accomplishment each time you are able to replace the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry, your brain will get the message. You will then gain control over your emotions.
4. Expand Your Knowledge
Read a lot about nutrition, good eating habits, exercise options, emotional intelligence, problem solving skills and relaxation techniques. When you are well-informed, you will realize that you have many options to solve your emotional eating problem. What you need to do then is to apply what you have learned.
5. Get Support
Discuss your problems with your family or friends. They’ll help you spot the triggers and observe the changes in your eating habits and make you aware. You can also look up for support group online where other people, who also need help and encouragement, meet up and talk about their experiences and challenges.