When feeling emotional, it may be tempting to reach for food in an attempt to soothe yourself. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually solve the underlying issues; often times it makes them worse. This article explores the ways to overcome emotional eating to help you lose weight.
To break your emotional eating habit, identify what triggers it and learn healthier coping techniques. If that doesn’t help, seek therapy from a mental health professional for further assistance.
1. Know Your Mood
If you struggle with emotional eating, there are steps you can take to combat it and reach your weight loss objectives. Begin by getting in tune with yourself; understanding what triggers you emotionally and developing healthy coping strategies instead of food for comfort.
Eating as a response to emotions is normal and healthy, but it can become problematic if it becomes an addictive habit that interferes with weight loss efforts. Eating can lead to negative body image and disordered eating habits, so it’s essential to develop strategies that help you remain in control of your behavior.
Before anything else, it’s essential to understand the distinction between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Physical hunger usually feels like an empty stomach and often includes cravings for foods that are detrimental to your health.
According to Sara Gilbert, clinical psychologist and author of Therapy for Eating Disorders, understanding your emotions can help you create healthier coping strategies. She suggests keeping a journal where you write down any feelings as they come up; then make a list of alternative methods like meditation, exercise, music or talking with a friend or therapist about them.
Next, identify your underlying triggers. These could include childhood habits, stress, stuffed emotions or social influences that lead you to use food as a coping mechanism. Maintaining a food diary can help track patterns and explain why certain meals are being eaten in certain contexts.
Once you’ve identified your triggers, it’s essential to create a strategy for breaking them. This could involve planning ahead and having nutritious snacks ready when you feel triggered.
Working with a nutritionist or dietitian may be beneficial. They can offer guidance on how to eat healthily and avoid unhealthy foods when feeling overwhelmed, distressed or bored.
Nutritionists or dietitians can offer meal plans and a wide selection of healthy foods to choose from. Additionally, they offer advice on portion sizes and what works best for each individual’s needs.
2. Keep a Journal
Journaling is an effective way to express emotions and let them out of your system. It also allows you to reflect on what can be improved about yourself in terms of life. A journal can be used for dealing with emotional issues, writing about goals or dreams, or documenting daily activities.
When beginning journaling, it’s essential to find a journal that meets your needs. Depending on how often you plan to write, you may require either an easy-to-use notebook or more elaborate journals with pages. Additionally, decide how often you will journal – daily or monthly?
One of the most crucial considerations when keeping a journal is keeping it secure. This means never leaving it open at your kitchen table or other public location where temptation could easily present itself.
You can opt for a journal that’s user-friendly, like a notebook or tablet. If your needs are more intricate, setting up an online journal with hidden access is possible by placing the journal into its own folder and setting up a password that only you know. This method works great if you need to keep private notes or journals during intense research sessions.
Another way to ensure your journal remains secure is to place it in a locked box. This makes it more difficult for anyone to break in. If you prefer not to go down this route, put the journal away in an isolated spot away from any family members or pets who might be tempted by its contents.
Journaling can be an effective tool in understanding why you experience cravings. For instance, if ice cream is being craved due to an emotional issue, then it might suggest that you need some soothing and comfort.
Journaling can also help you recognize the causes of your cravings, such as stress or anxiety. For example, if you find that eating something because of a particular social situation such as dinner party is making you feel nervous or overwhelmed, that could be indicative of an underlying anxiety issue.
3. Identify Your Cravings
Emotional eating can be a challenge to overcome, especially if you’re trying to shed some pounds. Not only does it lead to unhealthy weight gain and undermine your fitness goals, but it also makes you feel powerless over both your body and emotions.
It’s essential to recognize your cravings so you can take steps to prevent them from taking over your life. Here are a few strategies for doing just that:
First, create a list of what triggers your cravings and identify the feelings associated with them. Then, come up with strategies for managing those emotions without indulging in unhealthy eating habits.
If you’re in the mood for pizza, why not take a walk or call a friend instead of indulging yourself? Similarly, if chocolate is on your mind, have a glass of water or do something else to distract yourself from the temptation.
Second, it’s essential to learn the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Emotional hunger usually strikes quickly and feels urgent or overwhelming, while physical hunger develops over time.
Finally, you may notice fewer cravings for certain foods when physically hungry. That is because when you’re physically hungry, it is usually easier to pay attention to what you eat and when it’s time for you to stop.
If you have difficulty distinguishing emotional from physical hunger, try this exercise: Picture your hunger on a scale of one to ten; level one represents extreme hunger while level ten is when one feels excessively full after eating a large meal.
Once you can differentiate between physical and emotional cues, eating nutritious foods that meet both physical and psychological requirements will become much easier. Doing this can help curb cravings and set yourself up for success with nutrition and weight loss goals.
Although it can be challenging to resist the urge for food when feeling low, it’s possible. To stay motivated and focused on your nutrition and weight loss goals while practicing self-compassion when faced with cravings, identify them and identify any triggers.
Exercising is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and it can help combat emotional eating. Additionally, it improves your mood and reduces stress levels; studies have even demonstrated that active people who cease exercising may experience significant increases in anxiety or depression (5).
Anna Kippen, a registered dietitian, suggests that exercising regularly can help you better manage emotions and avoid overeating or binge eating. It also increases satiety after meals which may reduce your cravings for unhealthy foods.
Stressed out? Your body naturally produces more cortisol, a hormone which may increase appetite and cravings for sweet or fatty foods. According to Candice Seti, PsyD, a weight-loss therapist in New York City, stress eating is easy when feeling irritable or anxious.
After a stressful day, if you find yourself reaching for food in the kitchen, stop and ask yourself if you really need one. If not, find another distraction like calling a friend or making a phone call instead.
Another way to combat overeating after a stressful day is taking time for yourself and reflecting on what matters most to you. You can do this by taking a walk, doing some stretching exercises, or journaling your feelings.
Meditation or yoga are great options to reduce stress and relax the mind. They may even assist you in recognizing negative emotions such as anxiety or anger.
Additionally, if you struggle with binge eating or emotional eating, professional counseling may be beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help alter the unhealthy patterns that lead to overeating.
Gariglio-Clelland recommends that people ensure they get enough sleep each night, especially if they are suffering from chronic stress or other long-term issues. A lack of shuteye can increase hunger-inducing hormones and make it hard to regulate food intake, she states.
Exercise, mindfulness and alternative stress reduction strategies such as yoga can help regulate your weight and keep it off. They also assist with emotional eating which has serious repercussions for health, according to Seti. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy body weight is key for feeling good about yourself and improving how others perceive you.