5 Effective Tips for Conquering Emotional Eating

Posted: Sep 22 in Lifestyle by

Do you suspect you’re an emotional eater and feel you need to change this destructive behavior? With a little patience and support from those around you, you can overcome the hold that emotional eating has over you and have a healthier relationship with food.

Why is emotional eating so harmful? Emotional eating can lead to weight gain and chronic health problems, including type 2 diabetes and depression. You become trapped in a vicious cycle of anxiety, stress, loneliness, boredom or anger, which leads to food binges, and feelings of loss of control. Emotional eating doesn’t solve problems; it creates more of them.

The first step towards overcoming emotional eating is to realize and acknowledge the situation. Once you’re clear that your overeating is being driven by emotions, you can begin to deal with it. Here are some tips for helping you get started.

Question Your Intentions

When the desire to eat something strikes, ask yourself whether you are hungry or if you are feeling emotions that need attention in another way. If the latter is the case, try a new behavior. Instead of eating, take a nature walk, do some gentle stretches, read a book, or call a friend. Get in touch with your hunger and question it. Do you want to eat because you are bored, angry or upset? Question what you choose to eat too. Maybe you need to eat something, but is it really that chocolate bar?

Take Small Steps

Train yourself not to eat when you’re emotional; as negative emotions will pass. It’s the same with eating – the craving will pass too! Make a conscious decision not to grab something to eat when you’re feeling stressed or tapped out emotionally. Tell yourself that later on, after you have thought about the situation more rationally, you can decide whether to eat.

When the urge to snack hits you, nibble on one piece of fruit or take five minutes to drink some water. If you feel satisfied by this small gesture, congratulate yourself and treat yourself to something special, but healthy, later on. This will build up your motivation for further progress – little by little each day.

Keep a Journal

Journal your feelings and write down what you want. Document the things that trigger your eating – emotional or physical feelings, even thoughts. Also, write down what you eat each day and the emotions you had when you ate them. Was there something that happened before you ate that item, or did a particular thought go through your head? Write it down. Soon, you’ll discover associations between the urge to snack and your thoughts and feelings.

Get a Renewed Focus on Health

Shift your focus toward improving your health, and give your mind a new focus and goal. For example, if you want to maintain or lose weight, start a walking program. It will be a good stress reliever, and once you get started, you’ll think about the bigger picture and the long-term implications of your food choices. For example, if you eat too much sugar, eventually you risk gaining weight or becoming diabetic. Going for a walk is also a distraction technique that shifts your mind away from eating. Plus, you’ll gain the other benefits that adopting a healthy lifestyle will afford you.

Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be quite effective at curbing emotional eating. This type of therapy helps you change thought patterns that trigger overeating. Rather than reaching for food to feel better, you’ll learn to replace those thoughts of snacking with more productive thoughts. If you take this route, choose a therapist who specializes in emotional eating. Make sure the professional you choose is licensed and certified in your state.

The Bottom Line

Overcoming emotional eating takes time and practice. Changing behavior is an unsettling and sometimes frightening experience, but with a concerted effort and by taking small steps, you can often change your thought patterns and conquer the problem on your own. It may take weeks or even a few months of journaling and questioning your motives for eating, but change will come. If not, seek the health of a professional who can help you through cognitive behavioral therapy.

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