We’re all guilty of emotional eating at some point in our lives.
Emotional eaters use food to try to manage emotions. These emotions can be anything, ranging from boredom and stress to sorrow and frustration. Personally, I used to constantly snack out of boredom, and gorge on chocolates and cake when I was feeling blue.
Food can work as a tension reliever. Thinking about food and then eating the food can serve to distract us from the real problem at hand. It can take the edge off anything that we would rather not feel like boredom, or sorrow. In addition, certain foods like chocolate do provide a temporary boost in happiness. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn’t last for long because such foods tend to be high Glycemic Index foods. The inevitable crash when blood sugar drops actually makes us feel even worse.
Emotional eating leads to weight problems. Emotional eating by default implies that we are eating when we don’t need to, when we’re not hungry and are already full. These foods are simply extra calories, and often very unhealthy foods. Instead of digesting and using these foods, the body simply stores them as fat cells – which lead to weight gain.
There are a few things you can do to avoid emotional eating:
- Recognize emotional eating
Know when you are eating in order to avoid or overcome unpleasant feelings. Ask yourself whether you are hungry, or simply interested in eating in order to avoid other emotions.
- Use other strategies to deal with boredom
If you tend to eat or snack because you’re bored, try doing something else. Many people recommend starting a good hobby. As a “boredom eater” myself, I’ve found that having some sugar free chewing gum on hand really helps. Whenever I’m bored and feel like eating, I simply chew some gum – this helps me feel as though I’m eating.
- Keep ice cold water in the fridge
When you feel like eating but aren’t really hungry, try drinking ice cold water. Studies show that many Americans stay dehydrated on a regular basis, without even realizing it. Drinking cold water can satisfy what might initially feel like hunger.
- Practice stress management techniques
If you work at a stressful job, it can be easy to justify regular trips to the vending machine or a few drinks every day. However, in such circumstances, it’s important to deal with the core problem – stress. Try to learn and implement some time management techniques. In addition, practice deep breathing and meditation techniques which help to tackle stress.
- Recognize that this is not a problem with a quick solution
Dealing with emotional eating takes time and patience. It’s not a switch that we can simply switch off and decide, “No more emotional eating for me”. Rather, you’ll need to take steps to gradually deal with the problem. There will still be days when you’ll turn to food for emotional support, but those days will gradually be fewer and fewer.
- Find a mentor
If you can find someone else who has dealt with this problem, things will be much easier for you. You can share your feelings with your mentor, and they will hold you accountable for your behaviour. This will help you to gradually overcome your emotional eating habits.
- Seek therapy
If you are suffering from a serious problem such as depression or other difficult circumstances in your life, simply tackling eating issues will not be enough. It’s essential to deal with any significant problems in your life, and a trained therapist will help you overcome those problems in a professional manner. These days many health insurance companies cover the cost of a few therapy sessions, so take advantage of that and get professional help – the benefits will help you throughout your life.
As you can see, emotional eating is not a problem that can be solved with a “one-size fits all” solution. Some people can overcome this problem easily while for others, it may take some time. Don’t let the time involved in overcoming this problem dissuade you – take steps now and the results will be worth it.
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