Emotional eating is consuming food to mask or cope with emotions. Some eat when they are sad, depressed, stressed or anxious. Others eat because they are bored, lonely, or trying to fill a void. We even emotionally eat to celebrate personal successes, exciting news, or as a reward. We all emotionally eat from time to time, and that is perfectly okay. However, Emotional eating becomes a problem when it is habitual and when it is the only soothing behavior or coping mechanism a person uses to deal with their emotions. Here are five tips to manage emotional eating and feel confident in your food choices.
1. Find the root cause
Why is it that you emotionally eat? Is it really food that you are craving? Or are you lacking something else in your life? While it is okay to emotionally eat on occasion, food can serve as a way to mask more significant issues. Investigate, dig deep, and find out what your emotional needs are and how you can meet them without using food. If you find that you tend to overeat when you are under stress, then try some stress management techniques before heading to the pantry. If you emotionally eat when you are bored, try a new hobby or activity.
2. Discover your hobbits and interests
What makes you happy? What interests you? What relaxes you? Instead of eating when you are overwhelmed with emotion, try reading a book, watching T.V., playing an instrument, phoning a friend, writing in a journal, or any other activity of your liking. By trying another activity in place of emotional eating, you can explore new coping mechanisms and become more in touch with your emotions. If you complete your activity of choice and still feel the need to eat, then it is certainly okay to eat! This action may still help you become more mindful of your food intake and lessen your emotional eating.
3. Stay adequately fueled throughout the day
Undereating throughout the day sets us up for emotional eating and overeating later on. When we go long periods of time without eating, we become tired, sluggish, and cranky because our blood sugar is low. As a result, our bodies naturally crave sugar and fat when we are starving because sugar is the quickest source of energy and fat is the most efficient. All of these factors can make it very difficult for people to make healthful food choices when they are starving.
To combat this issue, make sure you eat three meals a day and consume purposeful snacks to bridge the gaps in between meals. If you are a person who is constantly on the go, pre-plan for your busier days and pack plenty of snacks and to-go meals. As a busy college student, I always keep a bag of almonds in my backpack as an emergency energy booster.
4. Keep Your Pantry Stocked With Healthy Snacks
Emotional eating happens sometimes, and that is perfectly okay! Set yourself up for success by creating a healthy food environment. Purchase healthful snacks that you enjoy eating so that if you emotionally eat you can feel confident in your food choices. It is much easier to make healthy food decisions if they are readily available and convenient to eat.
5. Allow yourself to enjoy foods for pleasure
Depriving yourself of certain foods only makes them more desirable. Honoring your cravings will not ruin your overall diet, and more often than not, deprivation just results in overeating later. So if you are craving a doughnut, go ahead and have one, but then eat a nutrient dense meal later to balance it out. If you resist that doughnut, you may find yourself overeating dessert later to satisfy your persistent sweet tooth. To reach a healthy balance in your diet, try following the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time you eat for your health and 20% of the time you eat for pleasure.
I hope the following tips help you take control of your emotions and diet and stop food from taking control of you!
About the Author:
Ashley Statter is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Dietetics. While she spends most of her time blogging for Your Guide to Living Well and Thrive Global, she also enjoys experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, self-deprecating humor, and kittens.