Food feeds the soul. It feeds the spirit. It brings us joy. Sometimes, it even fills the holes in our lives. And for many women, food is one of the best – although temporary – solutions to feeling bad. Even when we are making steps to eat healthier, we sometimes get stressed, get into a ‘situation,’ feel low and turn to our favorite buttery, sugary, creamy, fatty foods to comfort us. We might feel bad about eating after we are done. But in that moment, food soothes our emotions in a way that little else does.
So what can we do to control our emotional eating? Here are ten ways.
1. Keep a food diary
This will help you track what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat and how you are feeling at the time. It will help you see patterns that reflect the connection between food and your mood. Another bonus: research proves tracking your food is the best predictor for losing weight.
2. Manage your stress
Whether you meditate, do deep breathing exercises or yoga, it’s critical to find a way to manage your stress.
3. Make sure it’s ‘hunger’ you are feeling
Wait a while before you actually eat to see if the ‘hunger’ passes. Drink water. Sometimes your body might just be thirsty.
4. Get support from others
By sharing your experience, you will find that you are not alone and you can support each other in dealing with emotional eating.
5. Instead of snacking when you are bored, find a healthier behavior to substitute
Find a physical activity that works for you. Take a walk (indoors or out), watch a movie, listen to music, read, surf the Internet, call a friend, volunteer.
6. Remove the temptation
Replace your ‘comfort food’ with healthier food and keep searching until you find a healthier option that is satisfying. And never go grocery shopping when you are hungry, stressed, bored or feeling down.
7. Treat yourself
Don’t deprive yourself. That may only make you want to binge on unhealthy food later. Instead, try eating healthier options, reduce your portion sizes and every now and then, treat yourself to food you love. And remember, you have to balance what you eat with the number of calories you burn through physical activity.
8. Learn your triggers
Take time, be thoughtful and figure out what’s causing the emotions that send you running to food. Then make changes in your life to remove (or at least reduce) those triggers.
9. Forgive yourself
Slips happen! Learn from your experience and plan ways to prevent the slip in the future. Remember, change comes one step at a time, so always give yourself credit for making lifestyle changes – no matter how small.
10. Get professional help
If you haven’t been able to control your emotional eating on your own, consider professional help. Therapy can help you explore why you eat emotionally, teach you coping skills to control the eating and uncover if you have an eating disorder which might require greater support and help. Getting professional help is a good thing to do for yourself!
Do you have ideas for how to control emotional eating? What’s worked for you? Share your stories and suggestions in the comment section below.