Eating Tip of the Month
Emotional Eating: What is it and How can I deal with it?
Sometimes we eat not because we are truly hungry but because of how we feel emotionally. These episodes of eating for comfort, for stress relief, or out of boredom are called emotional eating. Occasional emotional eating is not necessarily a bad thing, but letting food control our minds can be problematic for weight control and may lead to feelings of debilitating guilt.
How can I find out if I am an emotional eater? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I eat more when I am feeling stressed?
- Do I eat when I’m not hungry?
- Do I eat to feel better (to calm sadness, anger, etc.?)
- Do I reward myself with food?
- Does food make me feel safe?
- Do I feel powerless or out of control around food?
If you answer “yes” to a majority of these questions, you may need to pay more attention to your emotional eating episodes.
How can you break the cycle of emotional eating?
Step 1: Distinguish emotional hunger and a true physical hunger.
- comes on suddenly, when physical hunger comes on more gradually. (ii)
- leaves us craving for specific comfort foods (e.g. cheesecakes, chocolate). These foods are usually higher in fat and sugar, which may be due to a specific hormonal response seen in emotional eating.
- often leads to mindless eating. You may finish the whole bag of potato chips without notice, which is another reason why emotional eating could make us gain weight.
- isn’t satisfied once you’re full. Sometimes you want to feel stuffed.
Step 2: Try the “Take 5” approach.
Tell yourself to wait for 5 minutes when you are really craving something. Give yourself some time and an opportunity to make a different decision.
Step 3: Record your eating over time
Look for patterns/triggers of overeating episodes
Redirect mind with alternative activitiesTry yoga (stress-relief), dancing, house cleaning, or even playing with a pet.
Take away temptation.
Don't keep supplies of comfort foods in your home if they're hard for you to resist. And if you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you're sure that you have your emotions in check.
If none of the above works, aim to snack healthy. Cheese a low-fat, low-calorie snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip, or unbuttered popcorn. Have a plan ready to prevent an emotional eating episode. Your body (and your mind) will thank you.