Do you turn to food when stressed, sad, bored, needing comfort or as a reward? Emotional eating is when you eat to fill emotional needs, to make yourself feel better. Eating like this may feel good at the time, but the emotions that trigger the eating don’t go away. When you’re physically hungry, most types of food can satisfy you. But emotional hunger craves comfort foods -fatty and sugary- that provide an instant rush and before you know it you’ve eaten a whole stack of calories without paying full attention to what and how much you’ve eaten! You then feel regret, guilt, or shame and this can then lead to more emotional eating. The first step to breaking this cycle is knowing what triggers your emotional eating.
Take a moment to stop and think when you feel a craving. Think what’s going on emotionally, to understand why you want to eat. You are then better able to deal with the craving the next time. You can also try having a glass of water instead and see how you feel in 20 minutes. This type of distraction can give time for the craving to subside. Eating satisfying amounts of healthier foods can also help curb cravings.
When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, even the little things can stress you out and heading for the cookie jar. A healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and sleep can help you get through difficult moments without emotional eating. Physical activity is great for your mood and your energy levels, and it’s also a great stress buster, but you also need to allow yourself time every day to relax and unwind.
Rather than suppressing difficult feelings, allow yourself to experience them. Over time these will become less painful and easier to cope with. Get help, if necessary, from family, friends or professionally. Become mindful. Life is enriched when you open yourself up emotionally.
Not all emotional eating is unhealthy. It is normal and natural, occasionally, but don’t let it become a long term emotional prop!