Emotional eating is a problem that a lot of us deal with. Food has been used to make us feel better since we were young children. We use food to celebrate occasions and reward good behavior. We use it as a centerpiece to our parties and family gatherings. I know that I’m not alone when I say that sometimes I even use it to help me cope with a bad day or a stressful situation. When I am struggling with patience with my 3 year old, my thoughts immediately go towards food. When I am feeling anxious or stressed out about an upcoming event, I start craving food. Food, food, food! When you hear the term “emotional eating” you may automatically think of using food to help you feel better when you are sad or upset, but it goes both ways! Emotional can mean sad OR happy. Angry OR joyous.
This is such a tough cycle to break and it’s something I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I am certainly better than I used to be, but there is always room for improvement. I’m afraid that emotional eating is something I will always struggle with to some extent. When something has been engrained in you for so long, it’s hard to change your thinking. One of the biggest problems with the negative side to emotional eating is the CYCLE that perpetuates. You feel sad, angry, or stressed, so you eat large amounts of unhealthy food. Once you are done, you feel sick, bloated, and upset with yourself for eating so much food. Now you feel even MORE upset so you eat MORE food. It’s a vicious cycle that never stops unless YOU figure out a way to stop it. My goal with this post is to teach you the things that I have used to break the cycle and for overcoming emotional eating.
*Figure out why you resort to eating when you are dealing with an emotional issue. *It might be useful to you to keep some sort of journal and record the times that you are eating and WHY you are eating. What are you upset about? What are you celebrating? How often is this happening? Sometimes we go through life without truly understanding why we do what we do, so writing these things down can really make your patterns transparent. Figuring out what triggers you can help you make a plan to stop emotional eating.
When you must eat something, choose a healthier option.Sometimes it can be easier to change what you are eating rather than try to stop doing it all together. Instead of reaching for the cookies or chips, try some cut up veggies instead. Bring a fruit tray to a party so that you have a healthy choice to choose from. If eating is therapeutic to you and you are having a hard time giving it up in tough situations, start with this small change until you feel strong enough to start cutting it out all together.
Find a non-food option that makes you happy.When you find yourself wanting to eat in an emotional situation, get up and do something! Taking a walk or doing another form of exercise can help take your mind off of the problem AND reduce your stress. Or maybe you really enjoy some other type of hobby. Find something you enjoy doing (painting, photography, reading, etc) and go do THAT when you get the urge to eat. Make it a PLAN. When you have a plan and you know exactly what you are going to do when that feeling strikes, you will be better equipped to deal with the problem and less likely to splurge on unhealthy foods.
*Say NO to feeling guilty and ashamed. *If you do slip up and eat more than you intended to, do not allow yourself to feel guilty and ashamed. Those feelings just perpetuate the problem even more, and you’ll find yourself in a terrible cycle. Acknowledge it and then let it go, knowing that you’ll do a little bit better next time. I love this quote from John Maxwell: *Sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN. *Treat every experience as a learning experience and the only place you have to go is UP.
Take it one day at a time.Emotional eating is a difficult thing to stop. It’s going to take time, dedication, and hard work. Some days you might find that you were super successful, and others not so much. It’s okay to have those ups and downs, you are not going to change your ways in one week. Understand that it’s better to take things slowly and turn it into a lifestyle that you can follow for the rest of your life.
Focus on balance and moderation.If you find that you are eating for emotional reasons rather than hunger, make it a point to balance that out with healthier options for the rest of the day. Don’t let those extra calories lead to even more unhealthy foods. If you slipped up in the morning, focus on smaller portions and healthy options for the rest of the day. Fruit, veggies, and lean protein are always great options. If you have the mindset of “Well, I already ruined the day so I’ll just get back on track tomorrow,” STOP! There is no need to wait for a new day and do even more damage. Start NOW.
I think the most important thing to take away from this post is to be kind to yourself. Self-hatred will get you nowhere. Loving yourself, valuing yourself, and knowing your worth is the best thing you can do. When you value your health and truly believe that you are worth the effort, that leads to better choices overall. And when we learn how to make better choices, it’s easier to pass those things down to our children. You can do this!
If you know somebody who would benefit from these tips, please share!