Emotional eating is a major problem for healthy living and weight loss. We can eat for all types of reasons that don’t involve hunger. We may be stressed, tired, bored, or even happy!
There is always an excuse, right? And that excuse always leads to eating high-calorie foods that we just don’t need. They’re empty calories, too, because they offer no nutritional benefit to our bodies. In the end, we eat more calories than we burn and we gain more weight.
It’s time to put an end to emotional eating. Here are 12 effective ways that will help you control and manage your emotions and do something else other than eating.
Understand Emotional Eating
Let’s start with the first tip. To be able to put an end to emotional eating, you need to understand more about it. This will help you acknowledge that you are eating because of your emotions.
Emotional eating is when you eat due to your feelings. You’re not exactly hungry. In some cases, you may feel full or satisfied, but you feel like food is going to support or change your mind. You’re eating because your brain tells you to.
You may eat to ease the stress that you feel or to celebrate a promotion. Your food choices are made through the way that you feel and are usually instinctive and impulsive.
No matter how much you eat, your emotions won’t change. In fact, they can often make your feelings worse. You give into the stress eating and then feel guilty that you’ve to blow your diet. You then eat more to ease that guilt, only to make it worse.
Acknowledge You Emotionally Eat
To be able to curb emotional eating, you need to acknowledge that you suffer from it. This isn’t just acknowledging right now that you sometimes emotionally eat. You need to focus on it at the time.
What’s the first thing that you want to do when you are angry, upset, or stressed? Is it to open the fridge? Catch yourself while you do it to remind yourself that this is an emotional response.
You need to figure out if you’re hungry. There are high chances that your stomach doesn’t need the food and may protest if you do try feeding it.
Once you acknowledge that you do emotionally eat, you will be ready to move on with the rest of the steps.
Identify Triggers that Lead to Emotional Eating
Now it’s time to figure out when you’re more likely to reach for food to feed an emotional rather than hunger. This will help you avoid triggers or start taking other steps to manage them.
The emotions aren’t always going to be negative ones. There are some positive emotions that lead to us eating. When we’re celebrating, we tend to reward ourselves with food. If we’re happy and having fun, we may reach for the ice cream to join in with others.
However, most of the emotions are negative ones. We tend to eat a lot when we’re stressed or angry. We view food to curb those emotions. Boredom eating is also a major problem, as you try to find something to do that will curb the boredom.
Some of the triggers aren’t going to be pure emotion. They are habits that you’ve developed over the years, some of them from your childhood. Social influences will also have some power over you.
Now you’re ready to start curbing the feelings in other ways to avoid emotional eating.
Focus on the Reasons for the Feelings
Instead of instantly trying to get rid of the feelings, you need to focus on the reasons why you have these feelings. You’ll do yourself mental and emotional good by doing this. The eating is more of an attempt at a band aid. You’re trying to fix the symptom (the feeling) instead of the problem.
Assess the events that led to the feeling. You can then find ways to deal with those events, removing the feeling completely. This helps you completely avoid the triggers of emotional eating, which you’ve identified already.
Once you realize why you feel a certain way, you can acknowledge the feelings deeper. You can acknowledge the whole situation and move onto the next step.
Put the Feelings in Perspective and Be Objective
Look at the situation from the view of another person. This isn’t always easy, but you need to think about the way other people would feel or deal with a current problem or event.
For example, if you feel angry at a comment someone made, take yourself and your feelings out of the equation. Assess how others would have reacted to that comment and be objective. Would they have been angry too? Are you oversensitive?
You could find that being objective helps to diminish the feelings that you have. Rather than feeding the emotions, you’re getting rid of them as you assess the situation.
And don’t forget to put it all into perspective. It’s easy to make one event ruin the rest of your day or week, but in the grand scheme of things is it worth it? There are going to be times that the event is catastrophic in your life. There will be times that it takes up everything you are, but there are higher chances that the emotion is a small blip in the road.
Start Practicing Mindful Eating
Now it’s important to focus on the food that you eat and the reason you’re eating. It’s all about being mindful of the type of food and the calories that you put into your body.
Some people will struggle to curb emotional eating at first. However, you may be able to change the type of food you eat to make sure you’re not consuming empty calories. This is a start. While you’re not fixing the problem, you’re doing some damage limitation.
Rather than reaching for the chocolate bar, have some vegetables already chopped into sticks that you can grab. You could even reach for nuts and dried fruit to help add more selenium and vitamins to your diet.
This isn’t something that you want to do forever. It’s a temporary fix, while you follow the rest of the tips.
You will need to work hard to do this. The sugary foods will call out to you, but you want to focus on healthy, mindful eating as much as possible.
Switch to Drinks to Curb the Calories
Why not have a drink instead of food. I’m not suggesting you reach for the fruit juice, alcohol, and soda. What I want you to do is reach for the filling and healthy options around your house.
Water is the best drink to have. It hydrates your body without adding toxins and calories. It will cleanse your whole system.
But it doesn’t do much for your emotions, does it? You want to trick your body into thinking that you’re feeding the emotions without damaging your health.
A cup of tea is one of the best ways to do that. The warmth of the liquid will work on the emotions, easing your stress and diminishing the negative feelings. You are actively reducing the symptoms, so you won’t feel the need to eat anything afterward. You’re also keeping yourself busy, making it feel like you’re emotionally eating.
Black or green tea is good for this. However, you could also reach for herbal teas too. Peppermint and chamomile teas are popular options, especially when reducing stress. If you’re eating for happiness, consider something like raspberry or lemon tea to give you that summery feeling to keep your mood boosted.
Massage Your Feet Instead
How about a foot rub? You don’t need to spend money to get this benefit. You can do it all yourself at home.
Foot rubs are highly effective for boosting happy hormones and getting rid of the stress and negativity in your life. They can also help to improve your overall health, as certain parts of the feet are connected to other parts of the body. For example, the instep is connected to your heart and digestive systems, while your toes are connected to your head.
Grab a tennis ball and roll it around your feet. You only need to apply a little pressure to get all the benefits. Feel the muscles relax in your feet and allow that feeling to spread around the rest of your body. If you want a full massage, book yourself in for one regularly to work away from the tension and negativity.
This is another option that will help to make you feel like you’re doing something. The hands are constantly moving, and in use, so you can’t reach for the food.
Burn Incense to Remove the Negativity and Ease the Mind
Incense has its place in the home when it comes to boosting the mind. There are certain scents that will work better, depending on your emotions. But your focus is to burn something that you like to help ease the negativity in your mind.
Pleasant smells will help to remove the anger and stress from your body. You can lay back and do nothing while taking in lavender, coconut, and rosemary.
If you don’t like burning incense in the home, you can use a diffuser instead. Just pop some oils in the bottle and place the diffuser sticks in, allowing the wood to soak up the aromas and release them around the room.
You could also opt for a warm bath with essential oils in the water. Not only do you get the scents, but the heat of the water will allow you to relax your muscles. It can also be a way to reward yourself after something good happens since you get to focus on yourself.
While you’re not doing anything with your hands, you’re occupied in another room. It’s harder to go straight to the kitchen for the food. Just don’t take anything other than a book or some music in with you!
Try Meditation and Deep Breathing
Meditation has long been used to de-stress and improve the mental health. It’s also an effective way to put an end to emotional eating.
You don’t need to sit in a room full of smoky incense and chant for hours on end. Meditation is much more spiritual and personal. Some people love the incense burning, but others like to hear nature. There will be people who remain in their rooms and others who do it in public to hear the birds and other wildlife around them.
The focus is on your breathing, whatever type of meditation you do. You want to clear your mind of negativity and focus on the deep breaths that renew your life force. Focus on getting the oxygen into your body and relaxing the muscles.
While you deal with the emotions, you’ll also find that you have a distraction. You’re too busy to eat.
Take Up Exercise to Distract
Rather than reaching for the food, why not take a trip to the gym or go for a long walk? The exercise will do you good and acts as a positive distraction from the empty calories. However, you will likely be hungry after your walk, so you will need to eat something. Make sure your meal is nutritious to support what you’ve accomplished while walking.
The exercise will help to boost the release of happy hormones around your body. This will reduce the stress hormones that because that need to eat.
You’re also building muscle and burning calories. As you actively remove the stress or negative feelings from your body, you offer positive effects on your weight loss and overall health.
And what about the positive feelings that cause you to eat? Well, you’re boosting the positivity even further. Plus, you’re occupied from eating. While you’re on your walk or you’re doing the exercise, think about the food that you will have. Consider something that will help to repair the muscles that will be affected by your exercise.
Find Another Type of Distraction from the Food
If all else fails, take up another distraction. You want to do something with your hands and possibly the whole body, which stops you from reaching for the chocolate and candy.
Some people take up knitting to help avoid the boredom. They will keep their hands busy while watching TV, so there’s no way that they can reach for the popcorn. Plus, you get to do something practical by making clothing or toys for others.
When you’re stressed, you could decide to clean the kitchen. This gives you something effective to do with your mood. Plus, there’s the element of exercise, while you work out your feelings and run over the situation in an objective way.
Other ideas include playing board games with the children, taking up arts and crafts, and even reading a book. Distract while you figure out the ways to handle the emotions and avoid the food.
It’s time to take steps now to put an end to emotional eating. The above tips will help you assess why you want to eat, manage the emotions, and focus on healthier alternatives.