Eating as a way to suppress or soothe emotions such as stress, anger, anxiety, boredom, sadness and loneliness can sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
Often, emotional eating leads to eating too much food, especially high-calorie, sweet, salty and fatty foods. The good news is that if you are prone to emotional eating, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track with your weight-loss goals.
Major life events, such as health problems and daily life hassles such as a stressful work commute; bad weather and changes in your normal routine can trigger emotions that lead to overeating.
Food can also be a distraction. If you’re worried about an upcoming event or rethinking an earlier conflict, eating comfort foods may distract you. But the distraction is only temporary.
While you’re eating, your thoughts focus on the pleasant taste of your comfort food. Unfortunately, when you’re done eating, your attention returns to your worries, and you may now bear the additional burden of guilt about overeating.
How to regain control of your eating habits
To help stop eating for emotional reasons, try these suggestions:
Learn to recognize true hunger
Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a couple of hours ago, you are probably not really hungry. Scheduling meal times will help identify physical versus emotional hunger. Give the craving a few minutes to pass.
Know your triggers
Keep a diary for few days and record what you eat and when you eat. If you can, note how are feeling at the time. When you review several days side by side you may see patterns emerge that reveal negative eating habits and triggers to avoid.
Look elsewhere for comfort
Instead of reaching for a candy bar, take a walk, treat yourself to a movie, listen to music, read or call a friend. Find a distraction if you feel like an emotion is leading you to eat. Plan fun and pleasurable activities for yourself ahead of time.
Do not keep unhealthy foods around
Avoid having an abundance of high-calorie comfort foods in the house. If you feel hungry or emotionally upset, postpone the shopping trip for a few hours so that these feelings do not influence your decisions at the store.
Plan your snack and choose a low-fat, low-calorie food, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with fat-free dip or unbuttered popcorn. Try altering your favorite recipe to lower fat, lower calorie versions to see if they satisfy your craving.
If you give in to emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day.