Emotional Eating – 5 Tips How To Maintain Healthy Appetite
Emotional eating is actually the opposite of mindful eating. It’s led by cravings, the desire to numb or change our feelings, stress, or just simply from habit and eating on “autopilot.”
Many things can seem like true hunger, including low energy, boredom, cravings, thirst, and stress. So before digging in ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” and you might be surprised to see the results. Really, this question alone can help you put the brakes on emotional eating.
Signs of physical hunger include:
- Low energy
- Your stomach growling
- Hours have passed since your last meal
- It’s the time of day you usually feel hungry
- You’re not fixated on one specific thing but instead, you’re open to different food.
Signs of emotional hunger include:
- Experiencing stress, anxiety, or boredom that can trigger cravings.
- Feeling like you’re exhausted or you “need a break”.
- You feel like you need a release and you’re tense.
- You continue eating despite feeling full.
- Desire to eat again, even if you’ve eaten enough recently.
- Cravings for certain foods (especially those high in fat, sugar, or salt like ice cream, chocolate, potato chips etc.).
- A sudden feeling that you “need to eat” accompanied by feelings of nervousness like shaky hands or uneasiness.
- You often multitask while eating instead of enjoying the experience.
- This might mean emailing, watching TV, driving, reading or anything else that takes away your attention.
- Instead of paying attention and enjoying the experience you often multitask while eating. This might mean reading, emailing, watching TV, driving, cooking or anything else that takes away your attention.
Why You Sabotage Yourself:
This usually happens to those who live with the ‘diet mentality’. Actually, it is the approach on all or nothing and when you believe that staying away from “bad” foods and food restriction is the only way to lose weight.
But, unfortunately, this way you are giving power to these “bad” foods.
Every time when you’re depriving yourself of all “bad” foods actually you start to crave them. This ends up with giving into that craving and then feeling like a failure.
Emotional eater uses food to avoid a feeling, numb to a feeling, or to feel something. It is like filling up on a feeling.
How To Stop Emotional Eating:
Most diets call for cutting out certain foods. This often means you need to cut out the same foods you reach for in times of boredom, anxiety, stress, happiness, loneliness, and even just being plain old tired.
What you really have to do is be more mindful and notice any triggers that come up.
Here are some simple tips to help you make some positive changes and stop emotional eating.
1. Slow down while eating
The ideal way is eating your meals over 15 minutes in order to let your body recognize and alert you that you’re full. Put your fork down between bites and take sips of water.
2. Eat more mindfully
Notice if you eat something because it’s offered or served to you or just because someone else is having it. Count to ten before you reach for a snack or meal and ask yourself what you are feeling. Is it stress? Is it boredom? Is it hunger? Or maybe is it a lack of time for you because the kids have been home all day?
3. Practice self-compassion and patience
Being critical and judgmental only leads to more stress and emotional eating. Instead of guilty self-talk and criticism, focus on progress, not perfection. Practicing mindfulness takes some time and effort, but it’s worth it!
4. Pay attention when eating and just eat
Sometimes you find yourself eating while not paying attention. Do you often eat while you’re watching TV, while working, or while feeding your kids?
Try not to engage in other behaviors that require your precious attention. Make sure you capture all about your food. Your perception of pleasurable eating is based on the sight and aroma of what you’re eating. Take your time, smell your food, observe its textures and colors, and chew well.
See yourself from a distance, and observe your speed, thoughts, level of tension, and mannerisms.
5. Keep a food diary
According to studies, mindful eating can result in better self-management over diseases that require specific dietary plans, including eating disorders, diabetes, digestive issues, and more. One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics revealed significant improvements in modest weight loss, better glycemic control, and quality of diet in diabetic patients after undergoing training based on mindfulness. (1)
Keeping a food diary helps you make the connection between your food choices and emotions. Record as much as possible in order to determine what drives you to emotionally eat.
Editor’s note: Dear readers, I used to think I was an emotional eater but when I added badly needed starches to my diet and kept fat to only few, whole food sources, my “emotional eating” went away. (I guess that was my trigger). I was finally satisfied with enough calories and even lost some weight. Read more about the power of starches. Here, too. Don’t forget to drink more water! These changes were more powerful than “moderate and pray.” -Heather Callaghan
It may seem easier said than done but you will get better even if you practice this once a week and you’ll slowly create a new habit. It won’t happen overnight.
Every meal, every day, is a choice. Sometimes we overindulge and mess up. Learn from it. Forgive yourself and move forward. You can do better at the next meal.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.