Think of the last time you came home from a stressful day at work, went through a rough breakup, or just felt bored. Did you grab a fist full of carrots and head to the gym or did you park yourself on the couch, turn on Netflix and devour a pint or two to ice cream?
If you answered the latter, don’t feel alone. It’s not uncommon for people to turn to food in times of emotional distress, but the outcome of using food to numb emotions usually only compounds those negative emotions. The good news is that you can break the emotional eating habit by taking action and adopting the following healthy habits.
- Don’t go into deprivation mode: Many times, after we’ve overindulged, we feel the need to punish ourselves by skipping meals or going on overly restrictive diets. Not only is this an unkind way to treat ourselves, but it ultimately ends of being a self defeating cycle of starvation and overeating. Forgive yourself for your overindulgence and show yourself and your body love by eating three healthy, reasonably portioned meals and snacks each day.
2. Keep a diary: Writing down everything we eat before eating it, it keeps us honest and accountable. It also gives us a moment to pause and think about what we are doing and the motive behind it. That moment of pause may be just enough to create the realization that we are not actually hungry but rather bored, angry, lonely, sad or some other emotion that is mimicking hunger.
3. Practice mindful eating: Many times when we eat, we rush through it barely even taking a moment to chew before we swallow. We are so distracted with our surrounding stimuli, that we hardly notice what or how much we’ve eaten. Instead, try turning off the technology, sitting down in a peaceful space and making the meal the main focus of your attention. Focus on the flavors and textures of your food and pause in between bites. This will allow your brain the 20 minutes it needs to register that you are full and also help create awareness of the nourishment you’re giving your body.
4. Have a support system: Feeling supported will lessen your desire to fill an emotionally empty space with food. Have a few go to resources such as friends, a professional weight loss coach, or a support group that you can rely upon to help you to get through emotionally turbulent times in a healthy way. Pick up the phone or write about how you’re feeling and chances are that getting your feelings out will diminish your desire to eat mindlessly.
5. Remove temptations: If you know you have a tendency to turn to certain foods for emotional comfort, don’t buy them! Instead have bowls of freshly cut fruit and vegetables readily accessible so that when you genuinely feel hungry you’ll have plenty of nutritious food at your fingertips.
6. Have a backup plan: Before binging, pause to identify whether the feeling you have is actually hunger or an emotionally charged feeling triggered by feelings of pain or emptiness that mimicks hunger. Have an alternate plan. Call an understanding friend, go for a workout, write down your feelings, or partake in a hobby that you enjoy so that you feel more emotionally satiated and therefore less likely to eat for the wrong reasons.
You don’t have to let your emotions dictate your clothing size. Recognizing your emotional eating patterns and substituting healthy new habits can not only help your waistline, but also increase your mental well being.
The caring experts at Medifast Weight Control Centers can support and guide you as you learn to curb your emotional eating and create a healthier you. Call today at (602) 996-9669 for your complimentary consultation and learn how we can help.