We all have done it at some point our lives. We are under a great deal of stress, we are feeling sad, anxious; maybe we are mad at someone or over a situation in our life out of our control, maybe we are just bored — and during this trying time, that beautiful yummy cupcake appears and grab it and devour it without even thinking about your body’s desire at that time. After we eat it, we may feel a pang of guilt, we aren’t full, aren’t feeling better emotionally .. .and well, maybe even feel worse!
Emotional eating is real. It can sabotage our weight loss efforts, or just efforts to keep us from gaining weight. The biggest issue is that with emotional eating, we don’t grab carrot sticks and celery. We grab the sweet treats, salty snacks or alcohol. We overeat easier. Some people actually do the opposite when they are under stress — and stop eating — but many of us rapidly eat whatever is easy and fast, without even enjoying it.
I did this personally SO MUCH in college— SO MUCH! Studying for exams? Yup, grab a pizza, or cookie or both. My now husband, used to do it as well while studying for finals, and while we would giggle about it then, this behavior plagues so many people so much and can be detrimental not only to their physical but also to their mental health.
Common triggers may include unemployment, financial strain, health problems, relationship problems, fatigue.
Food also serves as a distraction. If you’re worried or upset, you may focus on eating comfort food instead of dealing with the painful situation.
Whatever emotions drive you to overeat, the end result is often the same. The emotions return, and you may also now bear the additional burden of guilt about setting back your weight-loss goal. This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle — your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for getting off your weight-loss track, you feel bad, and you overeat again.
Are you guilty of this???
You are NOT alone. And you CAN take steps to stop this cycle! Here are some tips:
1. Stress Management. It’s time to open your stress management tool box. Exercise is my go to — but for some it’s meditation, reading, music, massage…. if you are lacking some stress management coping skills, consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist.
2. Stop. Ask yourself AM I REALLY HUNGRY?
3. Keep a food diary. Writing down patterns can help you realize your behaviors related to food and emotions.
4. Fight boredom. Instead of reaching for snacks when you are bored– keep busy. Go for a walk, talk to a friend.
5. Remove temptations from your home. Keeping those evil delicious donuts in the house will NOT make it easier for you to say no, so KEEP THEM OUT OF THE HOUSE!
6. Don’t restict yourself. No “diet” should be a jail sentence. If you are trying to lose weight, yes you do need to reduce the calories you are consuming, but you can still enjoy things you love in moderation. Telling yourself you can never have chocolate again, if you really love chocolate– will not make you happy nor be something you will stick to long term.
7. Find support. Join an accountability group, have a partner or friend to report to about your healthy lifestyle. Lean on your friends and family for support.
8. Snack healthy. Keep healthy snacks with you all the time so if you do feel the urge to snack, it will be something healthy — and chances are good you are less likely to overeat carrots. 🙂
9. Forgive yourself. If you DO have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself. Dwelling on it will do nothing.
10. Professional help: If you have tried some of the above techniques and are still struggling with these issues, PLEASE consider therapy with a professional mental health provider. Therapy can help you understand the motivations behind your emotional eating and help you learn new coping skills. Therapy can also help you discover whether you may have an eating disorder, which is sometimes connected to emotional eating.