How to avoid emotional eating
Last time we considered the subject of emotional eating, which is simply eating for reasons other than physical hunger. Before we learn how to avoid emotional eating, which inevitably leads to excess fat accumulation, let’s look at the difference between eating in response to emotions verses physical hunger.
Physical hunger comes on more gradually, whereas, emotional hunger tends to come on suddenly and be more specific. For example, emotional hunger often craves a specific food or snack. Physical hunger also can wait to be satisfied in contrast to emotional which demands more immediate satisfaction. Another contrast is physical hunger is satisfied when your stomach is full. Emotional hunger can still be present when the stomach is full. Finally, satisfying physical hunger is not associated with guilt feelings afterwards. Satisfying emotional hunger can be followed by feelings of guilt, condemnation or even powerlessness. To put it simply, physical hunger functions according to your physiology which is the way your body is designed to function. Many other psychological factors are involved when it comes to emotional eating.
Probably the most important way to avoid emotional eating is to discover what the personal triggers are that lead to the problem. What situations are most likely to cause you to turn to food for comfort? Remember, it is not always a negative emotion which can lead to emotional eating. A pattern of rewarding yourself for a job well done or just eating as a celebration, at a party for example, can also be common triggers. More often it is simply stress or feelings of emptiness or boredom which will lead you, often mindlessly, to the refrigerator. Childhood habits can also play a role as a trigger. Were you often rewarded for good behavior with ice cream or a trip to your favorite fast food restaurant? Whatever your personal triggers may be, recognizing them can be the first step to controlling them.
If you are not sure what your personal triggers may be, a sure way to discover them is to keep a simple food journal. Matching food to your mood can help you discover what situations compel you to reach for food. Every time you find your self eating when you are not really hungry or stuffing yourself just write it down. Eventually, a pattern will emerge and you will be one step closer to not only finding your personal triggers but taking the next step which is doing something to stop the emotional eating.
My personal favorite tip on ways to avoid emotional eating is very simple yet very effective. When a craving hits PAUSE. Simply be wise and take five. That is, take a five minute pause and consider the real cause of the craving. Ask yourself am I really hungry right now or is this one of those triggers which are emotional rather than physical? Does this situation fall into one of those patterns which you have discovered as an emotional eating trigger? Often just taking a few minutes to consider these things solves the problem since you may no longer find yourself hungry.
Another way to successfully avoid emotional eating is to find a better way to meet the immediate emotional need. This can be as simple as calling an encouraging friend if you are feeling down or looking at a photo album to bring back some happy memories. If a trigger is exhaustion, the solution may be as easy as taking time out to have a cup of warm tea or a hot bath with candlelight or even just a 15 minute cat nap to rejuvenate.
One of the most successful ways to avoid emotional eating is to form some good health habits. Getting to bed on time is one great way to decrease the likelihood of emotional eating since you make far better decisions when you are well rested. One common reason people do not sleep well is they are not really physically tired. The simple, effective solution for this is consistent exercise. A 20 to 30 minute brisk walk 5 times a week is usually adequate. Not only will you sleep better but you will be burning more calories. Another important advantage for a consistent exercise program would be that it creates a strong deterrent for eating what and when you should not. After all the effort one expends exercising, there is a much lower chance of undoing the benefits of the exercise with emotional eating.
Emotional eating is something that effects us all to one degree or another. One way to know if it is a serious problem is the presence of excess fat. If you are over weight and are experiencing emotional eating you should take action against what can be a very slowly progressing eating disorder. That is why finding your emotional triggers is so important. Next you can end mindless eating by taking a moment to pause and consider why you may be tempted to reach for food. It is also essential to find better ways to meet emotional needs than eating. Creating good health habits such as consistent exercise and proper sleep habits will also help you avoid emotional eating. Most importantly, if you are an emotional eater you are not doomed to a life of being hopelessly overweight. Taking some very simple steps toward recognizing your triggers and taking action against them can put you back on the road I call eating to live instead of living to eat.