Whether it is recognized or not, everyone has been a victim of emotional eating at one time or another. You’re feeling stressed answering a million messages at work and reach for the candy jar and start mindlessly munching. Perhaps you had a hard week and on Friday night you get home, order a pizza and devour almost the entire thing. Of course there’s the classic scene in romantic comedies where someone gets dumped and begins eating a pint of ice cream.
The problem with emotional eating is that often it is instinctive and one is not aware when it is occurring. The key to getting a handle on this is becoming more in tune with your emotions and why you are having them.
Here are five tips for putting a stop to emotional eating:
- Take a pause. When you have a craving, force yourself not to act on it for just a few minutes. It may be helpful even to set a timer for 5 minutes and tell yourself that if you still feel the craving after that time passes, you will consider it. Emotional eating happens when you are on autopilot. Take the five minutes to think about whether you are actually hungry, what you are craving, and why you might want that food.
- Name what you are feeling. Identify the feelings you are having when you have the urge to gorge yourself on unhealthy foods. What happened right before or earlier in the day? Are you feeling stressed, sad, insecure or overwhelmed? Eating can be an escape from these feelings because it provides a distraction and feels comforting. Some people even numb put while emotional eating and don’t remember consuming large quantities of food. The problem is, eating will not solve your emotional issues, and can even compound them by causing weight gain. That is why it is important to be able to recognize the feelings behind the urge to eat, and address them head on.
- Talk to a friend. This will help you name the feelings you are experiencing and hash them out. The next time you get into a fight with your parter and feel the urge to munch a bag of chips, call a friend instead. This serves to distract you from the desire to eat, and can help address the emotions you are having. Dig deep into your feelings- maybe that pain in your stomach isn’t hunger, but anxiety or anger.
- Learn your triggers. Keeping a journal of your emotional eating can help you recognize what triggers it. Write down the way you feel before, during and after a binge. Often you are feeling emotionally dysregulated before, numb during, and guilty or ashamed after. Identifying your pattern may be a key step in helping to change it. Once you journal enough you will start to recognize the events or triggers that come before a bout of emotional eating, and can then work to avoid these or address them in different ways since you are now aware of how you tend to respond to them.
- Identify positive coping skills. What are some things you can do besides eating that might make you feel better? If you are feeling stressed or anxious, taking a walk or doing a yoga pose might fulfill your emotional need for calm and reassurance. If you’re angry, going for a run or screaming into a pillow might do the trick. Once you are able to
name the emotions you’re experiencing it becomes easier to find more positive solutions.
If you believe you have a problem with emotional eating, Symmetry Counseling is here to help.
Author: Grace Norberg