Many of us are emotional eaters, which means that we eat even when we aren’t actually hungry. We may turn to food when we are feeling stressed, worried, sad, or tired. In these cases food acts as a way to comfort or reward ourselves. Unfortunately, this is one of the number one ways that people sabotage their healthy diets.
So, how do we learn to control it?
The first step in controlling emotional eating is to identify your triggers. Do you automatically reach for a snack when you are feeling stressed? Do you hang out by the buffet table at parties because socializing makes you feel anxious? Are you more likely to polish off a pint of ice cream if you are feeling sad or lonely?
One of the very best ways to identify triggers is to keep a food diary. This does not have to be formal, just any system that works for you. Be sure to write down what you are eating, but also how you are feeling before and after you eat. This will allow you to begin to really evaluate your habits and the emotions that may be driving you to eat.
Once you have identified your triggers, try the following tips to help regain control of your eating habits:
Listen to your body
Try not to feel overwhelmed by a sudden craving. Stop for a moment and evaluate if you are actually feeling hungry, or if you are just responding to an emotional trigger.
If stress is a major trigger for you, find ways to help control it. Stop and take 4-5 deep breaths, get up and take a walk, try yoga or meditation.
If you are feeling lonely or sad, try reaching out. Call a friend or family member and spend some time catching up. If you are depressed, consider getting therapy or look for a support group.
Give yourself alternatives to eating. Get outside, watch a favorite movie, listen to some music, read a book, or clean your house. These distractions will help shift your focus away from unhealthy cravings.
If you know that you are an emotional eater, then it helps to eliminate unhealthy temptations or comfort foods from your home. It is much easier to give in to a craving if you know that you have ice cream in your freezer or a bag of chips in the cabinet.