Are you an EMOTIONAL EATER?
Who hasn’t enjoyed a pint of Rocky Road ice cream and a good cry? Sometimes it’s good for the soul – the crying part I mean. Okay, the ice cream too! We all have stress in our lives – unhealthy relationships, jobs that are not fulfilling, teenagers, sick parents and every day crisis like flat tires, flight delays, leaking pipes, etc. How we deal with them, says something about you. If you turn to food, you are setting yourself up for life long problems and chronic disease.
Stress itself is now widely accepted as greatest source of many chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, depression or obesity. This alone should cause us to re-think the donut. Unfortunately, for so many of us – we haven’t connected the quick fix with what is really going on.
Signs of an emotional eater:
- Hunger that comes on suddenly
- Hunger that doesn’t come from the stomach
- Hunger that doesn’t fill you up when you are done
- Hunger that leads to mindless eating – before you know it, the entire bag of chips is gone
- Hunger that craves specific comfort foods but doesn’t leave you satisfied
If any of these apply to you, put down bacon cheeseburger and listen up! Besides stress there are a number of other reasons we make poor diet decision:
1) We feed our emotions – anxiety, loneliness, sadness despair. During these times, food is our only friend. We eat and it makes us feel better, for the moment. Afterwards, we are left feeling guilty and ashamed.
2) There is nothing better to do! How many times have you had free time — okay bad example —how many times have you been flipping through the channels and reach for a bag of chips or cookies? You are not really hungry but you want to do something?
3) We eat out of habit. You got a promotion so you go out to dinner and eat cheesecake for dessert? This is taught even as young children. We bring home a stellar report card and get an ice cream cone as a reward!
4) Peer Pressure! I’d like to think we are mature enough not to cave to the pressures of eating poorly, but let’s face it, when we are out with friends it’s hard not to over-indulge along with everyone else!
Okay – so you’ve figured out you have a problem. It’s okay, I’m here to help! You are not alone in this. The key is to identify your trigger. For example, I found that I was having conversations with a girl friend of mine about a stressful situation in her life. Every time she called, I would immediately go to the pantry for chips or cookies. (She actually pointed out that I was chewing in her ear!) I realized, she brought me back to a similar stressful situation I had experienced in my life. I wanted to be there for my friend so when she called, I either chewed gum or picked up an apple or 2 if it was a long conversation!
If you struggle to identify what triggers your emotional eating, start a food diary. I like food diaries for several reasons. Besides writing down what you are eating and when, food diaries allow you to write how you are feeling. This is critical in understanding why you are making the choices you are. Most emotional eating can be curbed with the following tips for behavior modification:
1) Get up and out of the house – and not to the fast food drive thru! Take a class, find a hobby, meet friends.
2) Stimulate your mind – whether it’s reading book or going back to school.
3) EXERCISE – take a walk, try a new exercise class or set a goal (ie. Your local 5K race this summer).
4) Get some sleep – studies show that sleep deprivation is a major contributor to stress and stress related diseases.
5) Drink water and then drink more water! Keeping your body hydrated helps eliminate sugary and salty cravings.
6) Think before you eat – sort of like the old saying, “think before you talk”. Decide if what you are putting in your mouth is what your body needs or is that your emotions talking?
7) For stress eaters – take a yoga class, learn to meditate, make time each day for you to clear your mind.
8) MAKE IT A LIFESTYLE!
For so many of us, emotional eating has been a life long habit. Make it a priority and make it your lifestyle. Invest in yourself and your well-being. I promise, if you practice, you will succeed and you will love yourself for it!by