10 Effective Tips for Emotional Eaters
1. Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or just bored?” Recognize real hunger. Is your hunger physical or mental? If you just ate (less than three hours ago) and don’t have a rumbling stomach, it’s probably not real hunger. Drink some water, get up, move, and occupy your mind with a task, wait a few minutes and chances are the craving(s) will pass.
2. Journal. For the next several days, write down the foods you ate, when, portion sizes, mood, and hunger level. Over time, patterns can emerge that will help reveal negative eating patterns and patterns to avoid. By journaling you may uncover a negative pattern similar to, “I was stressed all day at work. When I got home, I turned on the TV, got comfortable, ate an entire large pizza (dinner), snacked on Hershey’s Miniatures (a whole bag), ate a container of Ben & Jerry’s, and then went to bed.” Journaling offers tremendous insight. I encourage you to begin. It will help identify weaknesses in order to begin building strengths.
3. Don’t always turn to food for comfort. Instead of candy, cookies, pie, or cake, take a walk, treat yourself to a manicure, facial, massage, or call a friend. Plan enjoyable events with friends that do not revolve around food. Go on hike, bike ride or walk. Get out in the fresh air and move. Exercise releases feel good hormones in your body that zap cravings and make you feel great… without loading your body with fattening calories.
4. Clean up your “toxic zone.” When temptation is not lurking in the cupboards and pantry, starchy, high-calorie, high-fat comfort foods aren’t as likely to be eaten. You can’t eat it if it’s not there. Don’t keep bad, unhealthy foods in the house. If you do, when you’re tired or stressed, and at your weakest, you’ll find yourself indulging in these foods—and you’ll feel worse later because of it.
5. Choose healthy snacks. When eating between meals, choose a quality snack that is “slower absorbing.” By choosing slower absorbing foods you will feel full longer and avoid spikes in your insulin levels. When you eat high carbohydrate foods and spike your insulin levels you experience an immediate sugar high (you feel good) and then about an hour or so later you crash and burn (you feel bad, tired, sleepy and lethargic). This is the infamous peak and valley syndrome. It wreaks havoc on you mentally and physically (metabolism). A perfect example of good “slow absorbing foods” is: a handful of almonds, walnuts, or pecans with ½ cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt.
6. Eat five mini meals (a balanced diet). If you’re not getting enough calories to meet your energy needs, you may be more likely to give in to emotional eating. Eat at regular times and every three hours. Eating at three-hour intervals is an excellent way to combat food cravings. Also, never skip breakfast. When you do, you slow your body’s metabolism down and set yourself up for bingeing and poor nutritional choices later. Include a variety of foods. Emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, as well as low-fat dairy products (several recent studies have given a lot of credit to dairy and weight loss), and lean protein sources. When there is variety you do not feel deprived and you’re more likely to feel fuller, longer.
7. Consistent exercise. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. With less stress our mood and emotions are more manageable. When our body is fit and well rested we can more effectively handle stress. Consistent exercise releases endorphins or feel good hormones that help zap cravings and feelings of hunger. Lastly, exercise provides a sense of taking back control over your life. After beginning and sticking to even a modest exercise program, people often describe a sense of mastery over themselves, their body, and their lives. So, workout to an exercise video, or get out and walk each day. It really doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you enjoy it so you’ll do it consistently. I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. To lose weight faster, bump it up to an hour.
8. Focus on progress and not perfection. If you occasionally give in to emotional eating, forgive yourself, learn from it, and put it behind you. Get right back on track at your next meal. Stop harboring the guilt and let it go. You can’t keep blaming yourself. It happened, let it go, move on.
9. Express instead of eat. If a stressful day, event, or news has happened and it’s steering you towards temptation, talk to a friend about it, or, write about it in a private journal (or share it with others at this site). Allow yourself to open up, vent, and get it off your chest. Don’t suppress what happened. This will only lead you down a path of overeating. It is my experience that many emotional overeaters do so because they tend to “bottle up” there emotions instead of express them. Start expressing and you’ll stop overeating.
10. Confront unresolved issues. When we do not face our past issues, they continue to resurface. If your eating is getting more and more out-of-control, you may need professional guidance. A professional can help determine why you are using food as a way of dealing with emotional turmoil and help you confront unresolved issues. Overeating and eating for emotional reasons can be controlled. Don’t let it continue to a point where it’s destroying your body and life. If you think there are emotional issues to your weight problem, another diet isn’t the answer. You need to focus on making changes and getting your past off your plate. Your local phone book is a great place to find a psychologist or nutritionist who specializes in helping people deal with past issues that may be the cause of constant overeating.