‘How To Control Emotional Eating’ by Andy Anderson published in Great Health Guide (June 2016). Do you find yourself reaching for food for comfort when you feel upset or down? This could be one of the signs of emotional eating. Andy has some really great advice to beat emotional eating for good.
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MINDSET: How To Control Emotional Eating
written by Andy Anderson
Let me start by posing some questions:
Do you grab for the nearest tub of ice cream when you’re feeling stressed?
Do you tend to eat until you’re stuffed?
Do you eat to soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, anxious or frustrated?
Do you reward yourself with fatty, sugary food?
Do you feel that food cravings control your life?
If you answered yes to these questions, you’re likely a victim of emotional eating. It might feel like it rules your life, since most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live under the tyranny of a knife and fork. Here are five steps you can take to help you break free from food cravings and compulsive overeating and change the habits that have sabotaged your diets in the past:
Step One: Differentiate emotional hunger from actual hunger
The first thing you need to do is to learn to recognise when you’re actually hungry and when you’re eating for comfort. The need to eat due to actual hunger comes on gradually – and usually in these circumstances we feel hungry, but not compelled to eat. Emotional eating comes on suddenly. We don’t feel necessarily hungry but we must immediately eat something fatty, sugary and often salty, which means carrot sticks won’t do.
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Step Two: Recognise your personal triggers
People eat for many different reasons other than hunger. Identify your personal triggers – why do you suddenly have this craving? Are you stressed? Did someone just slight you? Are you lonely? Are you hungry and in the lolly aisle of the supermarket? If you can identify where your personal triggers lie, it makes it easier to consciously recognise when bad habits are occurring.
Step Three: Take five
Before your hand reaches for that block of chocolate, take five deep breaths and figure out what triggered the urge. Over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge. Maybe you always end up gorging on the days you had to miss your yoga class. Or perhaps it’s after you spoke with your mother on the phone. Or maybe it’s when you have a deadline to meet. Taking a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, will give you the opportunity to make a different decision.
Step Four: Focus on mindset
After taking five deep breaths, focus on your thoughts. Become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. Close your eyes and focus on breathing. Take a deep breath in and out, keep repeating as everything calms down. Boom. You’ve now changed your brainwaves and there’s a good chance the cravings have disappeared.
As you get used to becoming more mindful, you will learn how to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating. If you find doing this initially challenging, don’t stress – this is a learned behavior and you will soon get it!
Step Five: Make healthy lifestyle changes
Once you identify your emotional eating triggers, the next step is identifying healthier ways to feed your feelings. Here are some suggestions:
Exercise. Hit the gym, take a long energising walk, or do yoga. Physical activity will make you feel upbeat, energetic and more relaxed. In fact, there’s no quicker or better stress reducer.
Relax. Take time to unwind. Take a break from your responsibilities and recharge your batteries. Take a long bath, watch the sun rise or set, read a good book, or watch your favorite comedy show.
Connect. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. Play with your dog or cat. Connect with those who make you feel better.
Follow your bliss. Paint, play a musical instrument, write a poem, or join an acting class. Whatever makes your heart sing!