One common question clients ask me when they are trying to lose weight is:
"Help! I can't stop emotional eating! What can I do?"
While this is an in-depth issue, I will highlight some tips here.
1. IDENTIFY THE TRIGGER.
Common triggers: Stress, Stuffing emotions, Boredom or feelings of emptiness, Childhood habits, Social influences. etc...
2. IDENTIFY PATTERNS: KEEP AN EMOTIONAL EATING DIARY
Everytime you feel compelled to emotionally eat, take note:
Take a moment to figure out what triggered the urge. If you backtrack, you’ll usually find an upsetting event that kicked of the emotional eating cycle. Write it all down in your food and mood diary: what you ate (or wanted to eat), what happened to upset you, how you felt before you ate, what you felt as you were eating, and how you felt afterward.
Over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge. Maybe you always end up gorging yourself after spending time with a critical friend. Or perhaps you stress eat whenever you’re on a deadline or when you attend family functions. Once you identify your emotional eating triggers, the next step is identifying healthier ways to feed your feelings.
3. FIND OTHER WAYS TO FEED YOUR FEELINGS!
FEEL DEPRESSED OR LONELY, ENGAGE! Call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.
ANXIOUS: MOVE! Expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
EXHAUSTED, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
BORED ~ Go for a walk or run, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrap-booking, etc.).
AVOIDING UNCOMFORTABLE FEELINGS ~ Try a mindfulness meditation.
Click here for a meditation guide.
4. PRESS PAUSE!
When cravings hit - STOP and PAUSE! Take a moment to check in with yourself.
If you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
All you have to do is put off eating for five minutes, or if five minutes seems unmanageable, start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait.
While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.
5. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE HABITS!
When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight toward the refrigerator. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.
Make daily exercise a priority. Physical activity does wonders for your mood and your energy levels, and it’s also a powerful stress reducer.
Make time for relaxation. Give yourself permission to take at least 30 minutes every day to relax, decompress, and unwind. This is your time to take a break from your responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
Connect with others. Don’t underestimate the importance of close relationships and social activities. Spending time with positive people who enhance your life will help protect you from the negative effects of stress.
6. GET 8 HOURS OF GOOD SLEEP!
How sleep affects cravings and weight gain:
Ever noticed how when you're short on sleep you crave foods that give you a quick energy boost? There's a good reason for that. Lack of sleep has a direct link to stress, overeating, and weight gain.
There are two hormones in your body that regulate normal feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin sends signals to the brain when you are full. However, when you don't get the sleep you need, your ghrelin levels go up, stimulating your appetite so you want more food than normal, and your leptin levels go down, meaning you don't feel satisfied and want to keep eating. So, the more sleep you skip, the more food your body will crave.
As well as making it harder to fight food cravings, feeling tired can also increase your stress levels, leading to yet more emotional eating.
To control your appetite and reduce food cravings, try to get plenty of rest—about eight hours of quality sleep every night.