Emotional eating is a fact of life these days. Our bodies have become too familiar with the abundance of yummy foods, and most of us have lost the ability to eat only when we are physically hungry.
Think about it… When was the last time you felt truly hungry? When you last ate chocolate or chips, were you actually physically hungry, or did you eat for some other reason? Boredom? Frustration? Habit? Happiness? A celebration? Loneliness?
If there is one thing that I have come to realise over the time that I have become a mum, it’s that every woman I know – slim or overweight, healthy or not – deals with some form of emotional eating.
Take a stack of homemade biscuits to a get together and everyone’s eyes light up, whether they are hungry or not. Emotional eating.
Mention chocolate to a group of mums outside the school gate and they’ll all be nodding and licking their lips, whether they are hungry or not. Emotional eating.
You only need to spend an hour or so on Instagram to see a whole load of status updates about chocolate, chips and all manner of delicious snacks. And many mums openly admit to sneaking food so their kids can’t see or share! Emotional eating.
Take a cheesecake to a BBQ, and everyone will all squeeze a slice in, whether they are hungry or not. Emotional eating.
Enjoy a night out at the movies, and I challenge anyone to not want to dig into the popcorn, despite just having had dinner. Emotional eating.
Its so easy to eat the wrong food for the wrong reasons.
If you feel that your wellbeing is at risk as a result of emotional eating, try the below tips and ideas. You may be very happy to discover that the satisfaction you get from avoiding emotional eating is greater than any comfort you may get from eating for emotional reasons.
Tips to help stop emotional eating
- Learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Ask yourself, as you reach for food, am I actually truly physically hungry, or do I have a head hunger? Or heart hunger?
- Eat slowly and listen to your body. When you feel any indication that you are satisfied, STOP eating. Tell yourself that you are probably full, but if, in 15 minutes, you are actually genuinely hungry still, you can have some more food.
- Don’t eat mindlessly in front of the TV. Or while on the computer. Or driving. Or reading. In fact, only eat when you are at the table. When you eat, the only other thing you should be doing is chatting to family around the table, or being aware of your own actual hunger.
- Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love – just don’t overdo it. Allow yourself to eat the foods that you love, in moderation, when you are truly physically hungry.
- Look for connections between events and cravings . Identify the triggers that push you over the line and make you want to eat mindlessly. Write it down. Journal the connections you make between emotions and irrational eating.
- Name the emotion. If you have a food that is “calling you”, I can pretty much guarantee that it is actually an emotion that needs attention. If you can name the emotional you are really feeling, you can address that need, not eat over the top of it.
- If you are desperate to eat something, anything, just to “feel better”, just imagine this: You have been taken away from all that you are familiar with, your home, your roles in life. You have finally been returned to safety. What is it that you want MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE? What do you need, first and foremost? THAT is what you need to reach for. Not food.
What are your emotional eating traps? How do you combat them?