You eat when you are bored. You eat when you are stressed. You eat when you need something to keep your mind off. These are all variations of emotional eating. Emotional eating can be dangerous because it can advance to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia if not controlled.
I know how easy to go from “just one bite” to eating a regrettable amount of snacks in one sit. I know how guilty you feel after cleaning out your fridge. That’s why I want to introduce 7 tips to overcome emotional eating.
What is Emotional Eating?
According to Wikipedia, emotional eating is a form of emotion-focused coping. It attempts to minimize, regulate and prevent emotional distress. It means, resolving what’s causing your emotional distress is the best way to overcome emotional eating.
7 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating
1. Take a Few Long Deep Breaths
Taking deep breaths releases the chemical that triggers a positive feeling (called endorphins) and reduces the “Fight or Flight” response caused by stress. Once endorphins are released, you will be calmer and reconsider if you really need food.
Try this: From your nose, breathe in for 5 seconds and hold the breath for a couple of moments. Then release it saying “Hah” at once. Repeat as many as you need to clear your head.
2. Drink a Full Glass of Water
Dehydration can prevent your brain from functioning properly. It leads you to believe you need food when you do not.
The study shows that drinking water will calm down your anxiety by controlling the level of stress hormone, cortisol, in your body.
Try this: Before you reach food, drink a full glass of water (8 to 10 fl. oz.). I bet you will be too full to eat for a while.
Physical activity is the most effective way to maintain mental fitness. People who work out 2 to 3 days a week have less tendency to overeat. It is because physical activities produce endorphins which reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
Try this: Pick any exercises you like and do daily. If you can’t exercise daily, try walking around when the temptation to eat hits you. You will come back with a positive mindset.
4. Practice Meditation
It is not a quick solution to overcome emotional eating. But by practicing meditation, you will turn off the external noise and gain a strong connection to your body. This connection will improve your ability to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger. Meditation’s stillness will also help you build inner peace and realize your food obsession is not real.
Try this: In a peaceful environment where there are no distractions, sit in a comfortable position and focus on breathing with your eyes closed. Then try to clear your mind. If random thoughts come through, come back to focusing on breathing and clearing your mind. Practice 5 minutes a day and gradually increase the length.
5. Keep Food Journal
Recording a food journal is a powerful way to control eating habits. It increases awareness of eating patterns and problems. Seeing your overeating habit on a paper will make you reset your mind and want to do better by not overeating. This method works better with competitive people.
Try this: Jot down what you eat on a notebook (be honest!) and review at the end of the day. Then set up a goal for the next day aiming for less impulsive eating. You can also take advantage of free apps like My Fitness Pal and Rise Up + Recover.
6. Pick Alternative Action
If you are craving for food because you are stressed, picking one alternative action in advance. An alternative action is something you decide to do before you reach food. It can be as easy as drinking a glass of water, taking a walk, singing a song, and calling your best friend.
My favorite one is walking up and downstairs in the office for about 10 minutes. It clears my mind and stops the urge to munch on food. After walking, a glass of cold water tastes so good fills up my stomach.
7. Face Negative Emotions
Emotional eating is a temporal shelter from your negative feelings and discomfort. It provides a brief pleasure and satisfaction that doesn’t last long. Next thing you know, a wave of regrets hits you, and you are left with increased emotional distress.
One key to dealing with this behavior is to accept what you are feeling. It’s okay to have negative feelings. You get angry at your subordinate who is late for an important meeting. You are sad when your boyfriend forgot your birthday. You get frustrated and desperate when you have the endless volume of work to get through. These are happening to everyone.
Accept what you are feeling and don’t blame you for feeling those emotions. Instead, step back and think how eating food right now will impact you. You know shortly after eating, a wave of regrets will come to you.
Sharing how you are feeling with your best friend and a partner is also a way to release endorphins. Human beings, especially women, feel satisfied when someone agrees with how you are feeling. Next time you want to eat when you are not hungry, pick up the phone or text someone to talk about what’s in your mind.
As you noticed, some tips above relate to controlling your negative feelings because the only way to overcome emotional eating is to control your emotions. Don’t expect to make it happen in one day. Start with one tip above and give yourself applause if you successfully stopped yourself from emotional eating. Even if you fail, be proud of yourself for trying because it’s the first step to success.
Still can’t stop eating and keep failing on your diet?