Recognizing Emotional Eating Habits
The root of emotional eating can be multifaceted as everyone approaches it from their own path. Maybe you are exhausted with your work, tired or bored at home, anxious and nervous as a person or lonely and depressed. On the other hand, you may be overworked, so busy you don’t have time for yourself and restless. Either way, emotional eating is counterproductive to living a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally and therefore we should find a way to eliminate it completely. Sometimes you may not realize that you are turning to food as a crutch, so learn to recognize the following warning signs.
Firstly, ask yourself are you really, truly hungry? True hunger will come on gradually over a few hours whereas emotional hunger can be sudden. Wait for 5 minutes assessing what your body is telling you before you open that fridge door. If you are upset, angry, anxious or afraid then you may have unconsciously connected food to making these situations better. It is not solving the problems or the emotional issues, it is only increasing your weight! Recognize that food is just a source of nutrition, it is not a way to solve problems.
Often, this link to emotional eating stems back to when we were babies and we cried for milk, milk was provided and we stopped crying. That was genuine hunger but unfortunately, our adult brains sometimes haven’t fully disconnected that link. This may help explain to you why you suffer with emotional eating, but truly there is help out there. Here are 5 simple ways you can address your emotional eating issue today.
5 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
1. Get Social
Ring up your friends or family members to see if they want to go to the cinema, swimming, or simply for a walk. Even if you have family in another state or country, make contact now and ring them up. If you are shy socially and haven’t seen these family members for ages then take courage and think what’s the worst thing that could happen? The answer is that they politely decline and say no. Instead, they will probably be very happy to hear from you and hopefully you will get the outcome you desire.
When you don’t have anything to lose, then you have everything to gain. Think about this as life is very short and we live in fear of rejection far too much. Let your focus become a ‘social focus’ and no longer a ‘food focus’. If you can't call family members, then instead have you thought of joining a local community group? This could range from gardening to getting into politics. If you try this social approach to combat your emotional eating then you will find that you will get outdoors more, laugh more, dress smarter because you have an increase in confidence and you will find new ways to relax and enjoy life. Make that first step by simply dialing the phone with one finger, how easy is that? You can do it!
2. Music and Dance
Music is a powerful tool and dance is a way of communicating and interpreting music. You don’t have to be an expert by any means to dance to music and feel fantastic and full of life! Go to that party your friends have asked you to join them at, go along to that local samba class even though you have never danced samba before in your life! And discover what music and dance can offer you. If you regret not learning the piano when you were young then don’t say ‘I wish’ and ‘I should of’, instead say ‘I can’ and ‘I am going to’. Find a local teacher and turn to music instead of food and you will not only be enriching your life with music, you will also be learning a new skill! Join a choir or local music group.
If you are not at all musical then maybe you could still help out with the music parts or setting up equipment, leading you to meet new people. Music is not just escapism, it’s a way of life and if you are at all reading this thinking ‘I wish I had learnt the piano’ or whatever instrument it is, then stop! Say out loud ‘I am going to learn the piano and find a teacher today’. Enter into the world of music and dance and you can develop your social skills, your emotional sensitivity, your co-ordination and timing, your ability to engage emotionally with an audience and as a bonus, it may help to curb your emotional eating habits.
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3. Pampering Time
Are you often thinking of others and neglecting your own needs? Are you so busy and run off your feet that you forget to look after yourself? Either way, we need to look to ourselves internally to address the 'comfort eating dilemma'. Building yourself up, strengthening your confidence and pampering yourself are ways of saying ‘yes, I’m worth it’ and ‘I deserve this’. Often, emotional eating can stem from a distinct lack of self confidence. Focus on treating yourself in ways other than food and you will still receive comfort and a sense of validation. Hopefully, then you will learn that there are other ways out there other than food to achieve this sense of approval. Ultimately, this is what pampering can achieve. You need to accept your emotions, both the good and bad to overcome this need to fill the gap with food.
You don’t have to go out and visit the hairdressers or get your nails done unless you want to of course. It can be simple, small things like having a relaxing bath with candles, reading a good book with a cup of tea, walking the neighbors dog, doing a face mask, watching a good film with friends, going out shopping and so on. Placing yourself in situations where food is not the main focus or center of attention will help you to recondition your brain and distance yourself from your emotional eating habits.
4. Keeping Busy
Whether it is going to the gym to let off steam, walking, running, cycling, learning a new language or joining an art class, there are countless ways for you to keep busy these days and avoid the temptation to comfort eat. Often the fuller your life is, then in theory the more enriched it should be. Keeping busy should hopefully cut down or eliminate completely your need to turn to food as a comfort.
You need to get out there and look for opportunities to keep busy. As the saying goes 'opportunity does not just come knocking on the door, you have to go out into the world to find it'. If it seems daunting to take on all this ‘getting out there and joining clubs’ scene, then start really small instead. For example with a local book club, or go anonymously on your own one day ice skating or for a walk in the park. Get away from the situations where you may be tempted to comfort eat, step out of your comfort zone and your body and mind will find a way to adapt. If anything, it will be a new and exciting challenge which should take your mind completely off food!
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5. Benefits of Exercise
You may not have the confidence to join a gym yet but don’t worry as there are lots of other ways for you to get fit. You should start by going on a little walk around the block. Once you get confident with this then go on a little drive to a local park and walk there. A few weeks later, go on a longer drive to visit some open countryside or woodland for a walk. It is all about talking little steps one day at a time.
Of course you may be a keen cyclist or runner already, so do this more and make time each day for yourself to exercise. Treat your body as a temple and of course, this is easier said than done. But having that mentality will push you to want to do good for yourself and to want to achieve your physical goals as well as your mental ones. True and complete fitness is linked intrinsically to our mental outlook. Start small and build yourself upwards. Before you know it, you will be able to do anything you put your mind to.
Below is a video from the You Tube channel ‘Women and Diets’. Watch as they suggest the diary option for helping you to stop emotional eating.