One of the most, if not the most, difficult part of losing weight is getting a grip on your emotional eating. Even when your heart and mind say yes to losing weight, your hands can seem to have a mind of their own. After a rough day, you may find yourself reaching into that bag of potato chips over and over, until before you know it, the whole bag is gone and you can barely remember what they tasted like.
That’s why it takes so much more than good intentions, will power and information about nutrition and exercise to be successful. The ability to manage difficult situations and feelings effectively—without turning to food and eating—is a necessary foundation for losing the pounds.
The reasons people emotionally eat are all different- some eat out of stress, happiness, loneliness, depression, boredom or any combination of these. The common thread is turning to food instead of facing what is really going on, whatever it may be.
Not everyone can pin point exactly why they emotionally eat. Some people will find themselves standing in front of an open fridge in the middle of the night for no apparent reason whatsoever. However, when you eat out of anything other than pure hunger, you are emotionally eating which can not only pack on the pounds, but keep you from handling the tough situations that are calling for your attention. Are you up in the middle of the night because you are stressed about bills? Can’t get back to sleep and need something to pass the time? Big day at work tomorrow and are nervous for morning to come?
The more you recognize the real issue, the more you will start to realize that eating is definitely not going to help, let alone solve it. It will still be there in the morning, and you will only feel guilty for your midnight indiscretion.
Whenever you are about to reach for something to eat out of anything other than hunger, or find yourself already emotionally eating, take a second, and stop and think, “why am I eating this?” You may be tired, or stressed. Maybe you are out with friends and they are all ordering appetizers that sound delish even though you just ate. Maybe you just want it because it tastes good. In the beginning it might not change your mind, and you may eat anyway, but identifying your triggers will bring you a long way in finding out why you eat the way you do.
Aside from identifying your triggers, there are a lot of other tools you can use to get a grip on your emotional eating:
• Keep a food journal to help you track your intake and to record your food feelings: when you feel hungry, tired, when and what you are craving, even if you don’t eat it.
• Focus on your well being: relaxation exercises, yoga, and massage are great ways to quiet a racing mind that may send you towards the kitchen. Taking care of your stress in a healthy, rather than self destructive way will teach you to listen to and respect your body.
• Developing good problem solving skills.
• Tackle your trigger head on. More likely than not, you are putting something off that is triggering you. Make list of all the possible causes (a big pile of laundry, stack of bills, or late report) and choose one to work on. It will keep you busy and chip away at the mental load weighing you down.
• Distraction. If you find yourself munching during idle time, keep yourself busy. Go for a walk, to the gym, read a book- anything to keep your mind busy and yourself distracted.
The more you can learn about yourself and why you respond to different situations the way that you do, the better equipped you are to lose the weight for good. The main thing to remember is to keep things in perspective. Food makes you feel good, but only for a minute or two. The underlying issue is what needs attention, and when you are healthy and happy, it will be that much easier to tackle.