Have you ever found yourself experiencing strong cravings for food when you are feeling emotions that are difficult to manage? Grabbing a piece of cake after a painful break-up? Finishing off a family sized bag of chips after a super stressful day at work? When you are eating to curb or soothe negative emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, loneliness or boredom; this is called emotional eating.
Before diving into how to prevent emotional eating, it’s important to be aware of the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.
- It grows slowly over time.
- You choose to eat from a variety of food groups.
- You feel physically satisfied, or full, and take it as a cue to stop eating.
- You don’t experience negative feelings around eating.
- It comes about all of a sudden and feels urgent.
- You crave very specific foods from very few food groups.
- You may binge on food and feel physically satisfied, or full.
- You experience guilt or shame around eating.
What can you do to prevent emotional eating?
- Observe the behavior without judgment. When you are able to recognize a behavior, you are one step closer to overcoming it. Accepting the behavior without judgment allows you to move past shame and guilt, as these emotions will just make you feel worse. Remind yourself that you are not perfect, and that you are not supposed to be. You are human.
- Identify your go-to coping skills. Stressed out? Try yoga, meditation or deep breathing. Angry? Scream into a pillow or invest in a punching bag. Sad? Move your body to increase endorphins or have a good cry.
- Battle boredom. If boredom tends to trigger emotional eating behaviors, then make a plan to fight it. You could take a walk, journal, watch a movie, play with your pet, listen to music, read, or call a friend.
- Eliminate distractions. Do you tend to find yourself eating in front of the television, computer, or while scrolling on your phone? Take a break from screens so you can better focus on your food. This can help you become more aware if you are eating emotionally.
- Remove temptation. Try not to keep those just-can’t-resist comfort foods in your home. Don’t go grocery shopping if you are hungry or feeling down. Delete that food delivery app that makes it oh so easy to get that ice cream Sundae delivered to your door.
- Stick to a healthy diet. It’s important to get enough nutrients to fuel your body. If you eat well throughout the day, it may be easier to determine when you’re eating due to uncomfortable emotions.
- Do a reality check. Check in with yourself – is your hunger physical or emotional? If you realize that the hunger is emotional, give the craving time to pass.
- Start a food journal. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, and what emotions you are experiencing when you eat. This can help you see patterns that show the connection between your feelings and food.
- Use your support systems. Reach out to your family and friends, or find a support group of people who can relate to your struggles.
Addressing and preventing emotional eating is a journey, and there will be ups and downs. Be kind to yourself during the process and the outcome will be well worth it.
Want more support? Sign up for the Breaking Up with Sugar Course! A 6-module online course that will help you break up with Sugar and heal your relationship with food. Also, check out Molly’s youtube channel and subscribe to the Sunday Love Letter to get support, information, and motivation on your journey to create a loving relationship with food.
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