I think it’s safe to say we have all been guilty of once or twice filling up on food to cover up our feelings. Whether you find yourself feeling sad, anxious, or even stressed, we can so often turn to food to help us feel better. This leads to worse feeling thoughts about ourselves. It’s a cycle that can also lead to possible weight gain and more feelings of unhappiness.
Food has an instant gratification factor. It feels good NOW. When we eat a healthy or balanced meal, we often feel full longer and generally better about ourselves. When we turn to food for emotional reasons, we get caught in a cycle of beating ourselves up and feeling worse.
Emotional eating can happen predominately when we aren’t feeling good. Being mindful of WHY we want to eat something is helpful. I have noticed when my son is crying and I am feeling stressed, I often turn to a snack to help me ‘feel better’. It’s something that can happen so quickly and can be so easily rationalized. Here are some steps to break the cycle and to slow down.
Tips to stop emotional eating.
1. Before you put any food into your mouth, notice how you are feeling. Ask yourself: Are you eating because you are bored, lonely, anxious, stressed, or sad? If so, notice your hunger level. Are you even hungry? If you aren’t even hungry, DO SOMETHING ELSE. Take a walk, a shower, call a friend, or drink a glass of water.
2. Take time to prepare your meal with love – even if you only have 5 minutes.
3. Buy good quality ingredients as you can afford so you will be less likely to turn to junk food.
4. Throw out the junk food and fill your house with healthier snack options. The bad stuff is less tempting if you don’t see it lying around.
5. Keep a food journal and notice how you are feeling before and after you eat. The intention of the journal is to bring to light your feelings around food.
6. Many of us use food as a celebration. It’s sometimes part of how we grow up. If you notice you have a meal to celebrate more times than not, see tip 1.
7. Avoid the grocery store after a long hard day. You will most likely make bad choices.
8. Be around others that support you in a healthy way of eating. So many times if a friend orders something unhealthy and we aren’t feeling so good, we will be more tempted to make an unhealthy choice ourselves.
9. Be active. Part of mindful eating is also feeling more in tune with your own body. Exercise leads to happier feelings about our body. When we are feeling happier in our bodies, we are less likely to emotionally eat and make unhealthy choices.
10. Be kind to yourself. We have a slip up. We indulge. We dive into a pint of ice cream because it’s just been one of those days. We will have those moments, and when we do, can we be kind to ourselves? Write in your journal, notice and track what happened, and move on.