Tips For The Emotional Eater in All of Us

Most of us know the feeling…..when our emotions are too much to handle and we want to deny or bury them with food.  Or if we just don’t know what we are feeling and food is the comfort we have always turned to.  I am an emotional eater.  After turning to a mostly living food lifestyle, I still tend to indulge in the sugar treat, but it only makes me feel crappy.  Alas, even the emotional eating part of my life has changed.

When you feel your strongest cravings for food, chances are you are at your weakest point emotionally.  You may find yourself turning to food and not even know why.  Maybe you understand you are doing it for comfort, or to help you face a problem, handle stress, fight boredom, express anger or deal with anxiety.  Most of us do it unconsciously.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, it will affect your physical and emotional well being.

Emotional eating will sabotage your weight-loss efforts and will lead to eating too much, especially during this holiday time.  You may overeat for many reasons; unemployment, health problems, bad weather, fatigue, work stress or relationship problems.  Eating for these reasons can often lead to eating too much of the high fat, high calorie and the sugar rich foods!  Some people actually eat less during high emotional times.  I tend to eat less during depressing times.  Like with the recent passing of my father, even though I think about food constantly, my stomach won’t allow overeating.  I’ve had many moments where I don’t even remember eating.  And I look at my plate and it’s gone and I didn’t even enjoy it.  You could be reaching for some food right now as you read this and not even thinking about what’s happening.  You may also reach for food instead of dealing with a painful situation.  I’m trying to cry when I need to and take advantage of alone time, but also find comfort in family and friends.

Do the emotions you’ve tried to deny by eating actually go away? No, they often return and will drive you to overeat again, unless you deal with them.  It is an unhealthy cycle.  However,  you must first realize you are doing it.  Try not to beat yourself up for eating without thinking.  Let’s go over some techniques to help you the next time you reach for food instead of that kleenex.

  • Think before you eat.  Do you want to eat because you are emotional or because you are hungry?  Is your stomach grumbling?  Did you just recently eat?  Give this craving a little time to pass.  Take a walk or drink a glass of water first.
  • Try to deal with stress in other ways.  If you eat to calm stress, try yoga, meditation or listening to relaxing music.
  • Get support from friends or family or a group.  These people will help and can sometimes talk you through what you are really feeling.
  • Writing down how you are feeling when you think you want to eat or keeping a food diary can help.  This may help you see the patterns and help you connect your mood with food.
  • Here’s something I do:  Don’t keep those snacks you tend to over indulge with around the house.  If I don’t have them, I can’t eat them.  Or I will just buy one cookie, instead of a whole box.
  • It’s ok to enjoy an occasional treat.  Don’t deprive yourself.  That will just increase your food cravings. 
  • Healthy snacks.  You can never have enough around the house.  Choose raw, such as fresh fruit and veggies.  I don’t use salad dressing usually.  A big salad with every veggie that’s available.  Add some fruit or lemon juice for a dressing.  Mix well.
  • It’s hard to fight boredom.  We have so many coping mechanisms. I find laughing to help with boredom.  Always have on hand a funny movie or a classic sitcom.  How about playing your favorite artist really loud and dancing around the house?
  • Are you getting enough sleep?  It’s hard to feel stable with your emotions if you are also tired.  Naps are good and you should not feel guilty.
  • If you still can’t get a grip on your emotions, seek professional help.  A therapist will help you understand your emotional eating and help you learn new coping skills.

And here’s the most important one: If you have an emotional eating episode, forgive yourself. Write about it and plan what you can do to prevent it in the future.  Focus on the positive and what you are learning.

As always, I wish you a healthy and happy holiday.  Keep in touch with your feelings.  Make the choice to feel joy.  PEACE


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