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6 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating

Today has been stressful.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but it just seemed like Valentine’s day made everything feel so chaotic. By the time I was thinking about supper for the family and cleaning up the mess, I was exhausted. I dropped into my chair and picked up my laptop. I was determined to do some work tonight, but my brain was flashing the “low battery” sign.

I needed something to keep me going, to keep me motivated so I could meet my goals for the night.

So what did I do? The same thing many of us do. I walked to the kitchen and started opening the fridge and the cabinets. I was determined to find “something.”

Stop. Rewind. What was I thinking?

I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t really WANT anything to eat. Why was I looking for food? I realized I was falling victim to an old habit when I least expected it.

Emotional eating.

Emotional eating is the type of eating that seems like it can’t wait. Unlike true hunger, it has the feeling of “I want something, and I want it now.” Sometimes there is even a specific food craving, and nothing can substitute for that food. When you find that food, well, you’re going to it eat until it’s gone or until you can’t eat any more. You’ll probably feel some relief while you do it.

And may feel guilty after you do.

Are you ready to take back control of your emotional eating? Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Recognize your triggers. Emotional eating happens when we don’t realize we are eating to feed our feelings rather than to feed our bodies. Try to recognize what feelings are happening, what emotions, activities, events are occurring in your life when you reach for that next tasty treat. Are you bored? Stressed? Have you had a conflict with a family member or co-worker? Recognizing what is going on in your life when you are eating without being hungry starts you on the path of control.

2. Name your emotions. While you are taking note of what is causing your emotional eating, are you able to name the actual emotions? Are you feeling sad, frustrated, or angry? Are you lonely, bored, or something else? Naming the emotions opens the door to knowing how to address the emotion. If you are sad, what steps can you take to feel better? If you are lonely, how can you start connecting with others?

3. Keep a diary. I know, this sounds like something you would have done in high school, but hear me out. Keep an “emotions journal” to track the times when you are eating without being hungry. This can help you see patterns in emotional eating. If you find that there are certain events that trigger you to eat more often, then you will know what you need to address first. Are there certain foods that you reach for? Perhaps removing those foods or keeping less of it in your home will help.

4. Find alternatives to food. Once you have figured out what trigger foods or triggering emotions are effecting you, start working on ways that you can relieve your symptoms that aren’t food related. Can you look into a relaxation technique? Is there a hobby that you miss doing or that you’ve always wanted to start, but have never had time? Try it! Especially if it involves your hands (hard to eat if your hands are busy)!

5. Take a break. Remember when I said that I was walking around trying to find “something?” What was the next thing I did? I STOPPED and I asked myself “why.” When you have the urge to eat and you’re not really hungry, give yourself 5 minutes before you grab that snack. If you still want it after that 5 minutes and you feel like you have weighed out your options, then go ahead. If you feel like you are reacting to an emotion, determine if there are other ways you can address the emotion without resorting to food.

6. Form healthy habits. Take a look at your daily routine. When you breakdown your day-to-day schedule, how much time are you making for yourself? Is there any? Do something that makes you feel good, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Taking that small amount of time to recharge can go a long way to helping you control the urge to give in to emotional eating.

Remember, these are just a few tips and ideas.

Simple tools to get you started on taking back control. If the emotions that you are dealing with are deeper, you might benefit from the assistance of a professional.

So the next time you feel the call of the double chocolate chunk ice cream in the freezer (oh, wait…is that just me?), ask yourself if it’s the stress of the day calling out to you or if it’s a valid desire.

What are some ways that you deal with emotional eating? Are there certain emotions that have you running for the fridge? Comment below and let me know!

And if you are ready to join me in conquering you Emotional Eating, join my W.I.S.E. Eating Therapy Group (local, in office group)! This group is limited to 10 participants, so act fast!

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