How to Stop Emotional Eating
Does stress or sadness drive you to food? Do you eat for comfort or because you’re bored? Many people use food as an emotional salve. However, if you eat because you’re hungry for something other than food, you may have a problem.
Emotional eating has health consequences. It’s a sure-fire way to gain unwanted pounds that are hard to shed. It’s worse if you’re already obese, or if you have a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Recognize the Signs
Fortunately, you can gain control of emotional eating. The problem is not really about food but feelings. You may not even recognize food as your emotional salve, but there are warning signs.
Unexpected weight gain with no apparent cause is one clue. Eating until you are uncomfortable or “stuffed” is another sign. You may not even remember eating until you notice an empty plate or bag of food.
Stop Before You Start
If you have a problem with emotional eating, you can take steps to gain control of the situation. The solution has less to do with food than with how you handle emotions. Here are 5 ways to stop emotional eating before you start.
Address the Stress
Stress is part of everyday life. It creates the same physical responses as anger: increased blood pressure and heart rate. If stress triggers your eating, find other activities to calm you down.
Remove yourself from stressful situations, and take a deep breath. Deep breathing lowers your blood pressure and promotes calmness. Any stress-relieving activity, like exercise or a hobby, can keep you from raiding the pantry.
Elevate Your Mood
Sadness is a common trigger for emotional eating. Sad people often turn to food for comfort, especially if they’re grieving a loss. It’s easier to soothe the hurt with food than deal with the grief.
If you eat when you’re sad, replace uncomfortable emotions with positive activities. Exercise is a healthy, natural mood booster. Pets also promote emotional wellness. If you don’t have a pet, visit a shelter.
Loneliness and sadness go hand-in-hand. Many people eat when they’re lonely, but they aren’t really hungry for food. They really want love or affection.
If you eat when you’re lonely, find a different pick-me-up. Reach out to family or friends you haven’t seen in a while, or volunteer. It’s hard to feel down when you’re helping others.
People can get bored even in a world of television, video games, smartphones and social networks. For some, food is just another form of entertainment. Do you eat when you’re bored?
When you’re tempted to snack out of boredom, do something that doesn’t involve food. Play a board game or develop a hobby. Make it a rule not to multitask during meals.
Keep it Real
Not all emotional eating is bad for you. It’s natural to celebrate a special event, ike a birthday, with food. It’s only a problem when it’s frequent or involves a medical issue.
If every life event triggers emotional eating, it’s time for a change. Save celebratory meals for special occasions, and learn to enjoy life with activities other than food.