Are you an emotional eater?
I am, but it’s not always a bad thing.
We all have done it by enjoying birthday cake with excitement on your child’s big day, or eating ice cream on a hot summer day with your family and feeling pure joy, or feeling relaxed and happy drinking wine and eating sushi with your girlfriends. This is emotional eating too, but it’s an acceptable, beautiful and enjoyable part of life, eating, socializing and making memories with the ones you love.
When emotional eating becomes a problem however, is when you are over-eating to numb or stuff down feelings, or you’re stressed, bored or lonely and you feel a huge sense of guilt, shame or sadness after eating. Maybe you put yourself down after eating, thinking negative thoughts and asking yourself, “what is wrong with me” and wake up the next morning, skip breakfast and vow to never eat another carb again – only to end up face first in the snack cabinet later, after restricting all day! Or maybe you didn’t restrict and you still are struggling with emotional eating at night.
If this sound familiar, I feel you! I’ve been there and you’re not alone!
Here are my tips for you when you find yourself wanting to use food to cope with whatever emotion you’re going through:
As soon as you have an urge to open the fridge and mindlessly eat (when you already ate dinner and are not physically hungry):
Drink a large glass of water or make a hot cup of tea.
And wait 10 minutes.
During this time-out you can focus on your beverage and take a moment to calm your emotions and perhaps choose a different solution to cope with the emotion you are feeling.
Take slow deep breaths for 1 minute straight.
Focus on inhaling through the nose and exhaling out of your mouth. As you inhale think about bringing in positive energy and thoughts and as you exhale you are letting go of any negative thoughts and feelings – maybe stress, maybe sadness, or maybe you realize you are just over-tired.
During this pause you will be able to make a conscious decision.
If you then decide to eat a pint of ice cream, then that’s ok, but at least you made the decision consciously and not in a state of trance, out of boredom, or to numb yourself. In making conscious decisions you can remove all guilt associated with this choice. Because ice cream is delicious and sometimes you just need to treat yourself.
If you realize in this pause that you had a really stressful day and you’re using food to cope as you zone out in front of the TV, but you’re not physically hungry and you know you always end up feeling much worse after – this is where you can break the cycle!
In this moment that YOU have the power to change your behavior!
Take a warm bath when the kids go to bed.
Cozy up with a good book and hot chocolate (I make mine with almond milk, cocoa powder & packet of stevia).
Do a 10-minute meditation and some yoga stretches to release stress.
Exercise! Go for a walk outside or do a quick at-home workout (squats, push-ups and planks do the trick).
You’ll be surprised at how these small time-outs can completely shift your mood and your desire to eat emotionally.
And most importantly, do not beat yourself up about having urges to eat when you’re not physically hungry to deal with stress, pain or loneliness. Nothing is wrong with you. You are human! Just by becoming aware of your behavior, you become stronger. With this awareness you can put in the effort to break the patterns that don’t serve you well in the long run and will allow you to take your power back and create new habits that DO serve you and your well-being.
YOU have the power to change the course of your day, but always be kind to yourself in the process!