Sometimes emotions and feelings can lead to overeating. Stressful situations and anxiety related to work (or lack-thereof), family and relationships can make us turn to (not-so-healthy) food as a source of comfort. If you don’t want emotional eating to sabotage your efforts at weight loss, and to help you regain control over your newly acquired healthy eating habits, follow this advice:
1.- Keep a food journal: jot down what you eat, when you eat, in what quantities, how you feel while you eat, and how hungry you are. After a while, patterns may start to surface, giving you clues about your eating and your feelings.
2.- Is your hunger the real deal? If you just ate a few hours ago and you’re stomach isn’t growling, the odds are you’re probably not physically hungry. Try calming down before storming the kitchen, or the closest cake shop.
3.- Tame your stress: if pressure is driving you to eat—which generally occurs unconsciously—try a relaxation technique, like meditation, yoga and different breathing techniques.
4.- Fight boredom: instead of munching when you’re bored and not really feeling all that hungry, look for some distraction, like watching a movie, reading a book, going for a walk, talking to friends or family… There’s a thousand ways to have fun besides eating!
5.- Connect with others: a good support network will make emotional eating easier to fend off. Your family and friends, or even a support group, are there to help.
6.- Keep temptation away: don’t keep comfort food in the house if it’s too hard to resist. Postpone your trip to the supermarket if you’re feeling down or upset.
7.- Don’t go overboard: after starting a weight loss program, you may limit calories too much, substitute new foods for old favorites, and give up goodies altogether. All of this can intensify food cravings, especially in certain emotional situations. Don’t go too far, treat yourself once in a while to keep these cravings in check. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
8.- Snack healthy: if you feel the urge to eat between meals, snack on low-fat or low-calorie food, such as fruit, vegetables (with some low-calorie dip on the side) or unbuttered popcorn. Also, try the skim or low-calorie version of your favorite food.
9.- Learn from your mistakes: if you go through an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start anew the next day. Try to recognize what set you back, and find out a way to prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive impact you’re making on your lifestyle, on your goals, and give yourself credit for the effort you’re putting in.
10.- If all else fails, seek professional help: if you’ve tried everything but still fail, this may be a sign of an eating disorder. Ask your program advisor about what measures to take.