Emotional eating, where we eat for stimulation, or as a response to stress, may be one of the biggest barriers we face when losing weight. Eating to cope with emotional issues is even more damaging if you already have a condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Emotional eating is not simply a response to feeling down. Research has shown a link with depression. The National Obesity Observatory conducted a study which showed those diagnosed with clinical depression have a 58 percent increased chance of becoming obese.
“One study found that depression is between three and four times more likely to occur in severely obese people.“
Unhealthy eating can be caused by any of several negative emotions, including anger and loneliness. However, it can be beaten.
Breaking the Binge Eating Cycle
Awareness is key to breaking the cycle that causes binge eating or emotional eating. Here are some tips for breaking the cycle of emotional eating:
Track what you eat, and when
Keep a record of what you eat, including the time and your frame of mind. Do you binge-eat immediately before work or after? (Or during?) What do you think about prior to binge eating? (Perhaps a past relationship that left a negative impact on you, or stresses caused by your family.) Keep detailed records. These will help you recognize what brings on your desire to eat.
Plan ahead for the holidays
Holidays can be challenging for some people due to emotions and/or stress brought on by family issues. Then there’s just how busy it gets… and how much can be demanded of us while extra food temptations are everywhere. With Thanksgiving (and then Christmas) around the corner, you might want to grab our free Thanksgiving Tips eBook.
Examine what you reach for when you eat for comfort
What do you seek out in terms of food at these times? Do you select sugary treats? Ice cream?
Build in a time barrier
Once you’ve identified what you eat and when, you can begin to change the conditions. When you reach the time when you would typically start eating, build a barrier. Make a point of going for a walk instead. Perhaps give yourself twenty minutes to read a book before you eat.
Often when we turn to emotional eating, we do it in secret. So involve friends and family. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability to the people who love you. Tell them you want to keep those sugary treats out of the house, and why.
Replace the bad with the good
Buy healthy snacks. Carrots or celery give a satisfying crunch without empty calories.
Recognize that breaking a habit is a process, not an instant fix
Setbacks are inevitable. Don’t dwell on the days where you couldn’t resist having a sweet treat. Make a note in your logbook and recognize that tomorrow (or even just later today) you can change this. Don’t let the bad days contribute to unhealthy emotional eating.
Emotional Eating Isn’t Always Bad
Recognize also that sometimes emotional eating is good for you. Did you just achieve something at work? Has something wonderful happened in your life? Celebrate that! Now is not the time to deprive yourself of what you enjoy. Having a treat at times like this helps build a healthy relationship with food. It helps you stop associating food with negative emotions. Just don’t overdo it: for days like this, decide in advance what you will treat yourself to. A bowl of chocolate ice cream? That’s fine; but tell yourself one is enough.
For more helpful hints on breaking the emotional eating habit, see Dealing With Emotional Food Cravings.