Everybody emotionally eats at some point, some just do it more often than others and some do it for every emotion.
Not matter what you do it for, the process, or sequence, is still the same:
- Trigger – What is your trigger – is it stress from work or family, is it sadness or loneliness?
- Eat – When you eat, is it is the same food that you reach for each time you have an emotion?
- Guilt – Once we feel guilty about eating generally we will eat again because we feel guilty!
Many people do not even realise they are eating for an emotional reason until it is too late and the plate full of food is already gone. If this sounds like you, then take some time to think back over the last few days or weeks and the meals you have eaten. Think about why you have chosen the foods you did – were there emotions behind them? Once you start to recognise why you are eating it will make it much easier for you to make better choices.
When we eat, we are generally feeding 1 of 3 things:
- Our Body – if this is the case the food is generally healthier.
- Our emotional body or soul – if this is the case the food is generally bad.
- Our mind – can be either good or bad food.
Let’s have a closer look at the sequence and specifically how we can slow the process down and make some changes to our emotional eating patterns.
When it comes to the trigger, the secrets are to understand your triggers, look for alternatives to eating for emotional triggers and question your decision before eating. In other words:
- Ask yourself, what are you avoiding – which emotion is it?
- Try something else instead of eating, e.g. go for a walk or read a book.
- Ask yourself if you can afford the food – if you eat this food will it put you over your calorie count for the day (remember if you want to lose weight you have to eat less calories than you are burning).
When it comes to eating:
- Try to eat something healthier
- Ask yourself, can I make a better version of the food I want to have (e.g. a healthy homemade pizza instead of a take away version)?
Feeling guilty about eating for emotional reasons can make things even worse.
When you do feel guilty, ask yourself these questions:
- Was eating the food worth it?
- Can I account or make up for it? For example, can you work out the next day a little extra or can you improve your meal plan for the next day or so to counter the overconsumption.
Unless you’ve eaten a family block of chocolate or full packet of biscuits, most of the time emotion eating isn’t as bad as we think it is and the calories we are eating are not as much as we thought.
Decide that it is OK
Occasional and low level emotional eating isn’t the end of the world.
Being aware that you are eating for an emotional reason really is the first step in controlling it.
Once you identify and acknowledge your emotional eating, you are starting to take charge of your emotions and not letting them control you.