Do you eat when you feel emotional and not only when you are hungry? If you’re someone who reaches for the biscuit cupboard when you’re feeling sad, stressed, lonely or bored then you have a tendency towards emotional eating. Whilst this doesn’t constitute a real problem if it’s an occasional thing, if your go-to way of coping with your emotions is eating then it’s worth considering the impact this may be having on your health and well-being. It’s certainly worth paying attention to your eating habits particularly when you’re bored, tired, lonely, stressed or angry, and if care is not taken you may end up feeding a never-ending problem. While eating can help address emotional hunger, it doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of the problem. If anything, the excess calorie intake only makes you feel even worse than before. The endless cycle continues.
1. How to Recognise Emotional Eating
While emotional eating often results from negative experiences and feelings, it can also result from happier times such as celebrations, rewarding yourself for goals achieved or holidays. The following are signs that you are guilty of emotional eating:
- You are eating to silence shame, resentment, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger.
- You are eating so that you can have something to do. People who feel empty or unfulfilled often eat to compensate for their emotional emptiness, to relieve boredom or to fill a void in their life. In the moment eating distracts you from feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction.
- You relish eating unhealthy foods as a way of remembering some of your childhood experiences.
- You overeat in the presence of others due to peer influence, being encouraged to celebrate etc.
- You find yourself feeling hungrier when you are stressed, thus you seek comfort through eating. Due to high levels of cortisol in your body, you end up craving fried, sweet, and salty foods.
2. How to Stop Emotional Eating
Many people who are prone to emotional eating feel powerless when it comes to taking control over their food cravings and emotions. But do not despair because there is hope. With a little more effort, it is very easy to stop emotional eating. The key is to find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally and to take practical steps to manage your stress levels.
Here are a few things you can try to help you regain control of your emotional eating habits:
3. Take a deep breath.
This helps relieve feelings of stress. Deep breathing also releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. It gives you time to think about the most appropriate response to the events taking place. Take five seconds to breathe in through your nose and hold for a similar length of time. Gradually, release the air through your mouth for another five seconds. Repeat it five times and you will begin to feel calmer, more at ease and in control.
4. Get more active.
Physical activity burns calories and lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Consider combining cardiovascular activity with high-intensity interval training for a more effective way of combatting stress, making you feel great and improving the quality of your life overall.
5. Eat and enjoy a rainbow of healthy foods.
Adopting a diet full of whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, kefir, and yogurt helps to keep stress levels at bay, and boosts happiness. These are ‘feel good’ foods and will increase your motivation and zest for life. They contain essential nutrients such as calcium, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and the B vitamins that help manage stress, fight illness, and boost strength. They also keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. Ensure you are appreciating the foods you are consuming and be mindful of the amazing benefits these health foods have for your physical and mental health.
6. Plan your shopping ahead.
Plan your weekly shop in advance and take time and care when writing your shopping list. Research healthy recipes beforehand and add the ingredients to your list. Avoid impulse buying as much as possible and consider the health value of all items on your list.
You don’t have to be a victim of emotional eating. By taking control of your emotions and life, you can easily break out of the vicious cycle of stress and emotional eating. Start today!
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