Emotional hunger isn’t easily quelled by eating
While filling up may work in the moment, eating because of negative emotions often leaves people feeling more upset than before. This cycle typically doesn’t end until a person addresses emotional needs head on.
Find other ways to cope with stress
Discovering another way to deal with negative emotions is often the first step toward overcoming emotional eating. This could mean writing in a journal, reading a book or finding a few minutes to otherwise relax and decompress from the day.
It takes time to shift your mindset from reaching for food to engaging in other forms of stress relief, so experiment with a variety of activities to find what works for you.
Move your body
Some people find relief in getting regular exercise. A walk or jog around the block or a quickie yoga routine may help in particularly emotional moments.
In one study, participants were asked to engage in eight weeks of yoga. They were then assessed on their mindfulness and insightful understanding — basically their understanding of themselves and of situations surrounding them.
The results showed that regular yoga may be a useful preventative measure to help diffuse emotional states such as anxiety and depression.
Others are calmed by turning inward to practices like meditation.
There are a variety of studies that support mindfulness meditation as a treatment for binge eating disorder and emotional eating.
Simple deep breathing is meditation that you can do almost anywhere. Sit in a quiet space and focus on your breath — slowly flowing in and out of your nostrils.
See our free mediation apps at https://eapassist.com.au/wellness-apps/
Start a food diary
Keeping a log of what you eat and when you eat it may help you identify triggers that lead to emotional eating.
While it can be challenging, try to include everything you eat — however big or small — and record the emotions you’re feeling in that moment.
Also, if you choose to seek medical help about your eating habits, your food diary can be a useful tool to share with your doctor.
Eat a healthy diet
Making sure you get enough nutrients to fuel your body is also key. It can be difficult to distinguish between true and emotional hunger. If you eat well throughout the day, it may be easier to spot when you’re eating out of boredom or sadness or stress.
Still having trouble? Try reaching for healthy snacks, like fresh fruit or vegetables, plain popcorn, and other low-fat, low-calorie foods.
Take common offenders out of your pantry
Consider trashing or donating foods in your cupboards that you often reach for in moments of strife. Think high-fat, sweet or calorie-laden things, like chips, chocolate and ice cream. Also postpone trips to the grocery store when you’re feeling upset.
Keeping the foods you crave out of reach when you’re feeling emotional may help break the cycle by giving you time to think before noshing.
Pay attention to volume
Resist grabbing a whole bag of chips or other food to snack on. Measuring out portions and choosing small plates to help with portion control are mindful eating habits to work on developing.
Once you’ve finished one helping, give yourself time before going back for a second. You may even want to try another stress-relieving technique, like deep breathing, in the meantime.
Resist isolation in moments of sadness or anxiety. Even a quick phone call to a friend or family member can do wonders for your mood. There are also formal support groups that can help.
You may find yourself eating in front of the television, computer or some other distraction. Try switching off the tube or putting down your phone the next time you find yourself in this pattern.
By focusing on your food, the bites you take, and your level of hunger, you may discover that you’re eating emotionally. Some even find it helpful to focus on chewing 10 to 30 times before swallowing a bite of food.
Doing these things gives your mind time to catch up to your stomach.
Work on positive self-talk
Feelings of shame and guilt are associated with emotional eating. It’s important to work on the self-talk you experience after an episode — or it may lead to a cycle of emotional eating behaviour.
Instead of coming down hard, try learning from your setback. Use it as an opportunity to plan for the future. And be sure to reward yourself with self-care measures — taking a bath, going for a leisurely walk, and so on — when you make strides.
Food may help ease emotions initially but addressing the feelings behind the hunger is important in the long term. Work to find alternative ways to deal with stress, like exercise and peer support and try practicing mindful eating habits.