I Was an Emotional Eating Pro
If anyone could tell you a thing or two about emotional eating, it’s me…the girl that used to buy a box of chocolate protein bars for her college dorm room, eat the entire box within an hour despite her very best intentions, and then throw the evidence directly down the garbage chute so her roommate wouldn’t find it in the trash can. Oh, the memories!
I knew it was emotional eating because I wasn’t necessarily hungry at the moment. In fact, I was hardly tasting the bars, just stuffing them into my mouth for…what? Comfort while I was far from home? Maybe. Stress from homework and my quickly dwindling checking account? Probably. I was rewarding myself too, for all of my hard work.
What is Emotional Eating?
Are you an emotional eater? To find out, ask yourself a few questions.
- Do you eat even if you’re not hungry?
- Do you find yourself eating mindlessly, not really paying much attention to, or fully enjoying, your food?
- Do you regularly overeat until you’re uncomfortably stuffed?
- Do you eat in response to stress?
- Do you eat to tend to emotions like anger, sadness, or boredom?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you crave specific foods instead of food in general?
- Do you feel out of control when it comes to eating?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing emotional eating.
The problem with emotional eating is that not only does it not resolve the issue at hand, it actually makes it worse. Your negative emotions return shortly after your emotional eating episode, but now with the added guilt of falling off the wagon with your diet. So it’s right back to emotional eating!
How to End Emotional Eating For Good
The good news is that you don’t have to ride the emotional eating train. Let’s talk about how to get the heck off of it, shall we?
- Identify your emotional eating triggers. If you want to fight back, you need to know exactly what you’re fighting. Are you stressed? Sad? Bored? At the end of a rough day? It may be helpful to keep a food journal for several days, and to write down not only what you ate throughout the day, but how you were feeling when you ate it. (You can download a free printable food journal here!)
- Decide on an alternative solution to your emotional trigger. If you’re stressed, try taking a relaxing bath or going for a short jog instead. Are you sad? Call a friend or family member to catch up. Bored? Watch a new movie or spend some time on a favorite hobby.
- Wait at least five minutes before indulging a craving. It’s sometimes easier to tell yourself you can have what you want, but have to wait a few minutes for it, than to deny yourself altogether. Use the time waiting to engage in a distraction or the alternative solution you decided on above. You may just find the willpower you need to say no a few minutes later.
- Remove temptations. I’m way more likely to binge on chips if they’re in my pantry, than if I have to jump in my car at midnight to go find some.
- Practice mindful eating. Eating in front of the tv is a surefire way to eat much more than you intended, and not even fully enjoy it. So be sure to avoid multitasking when you eat. Put away your phone, computer, and favorite tv show, and really think about what you’re eating. Imagine how your food was prepared as you notice the flavor and texture of each small bite. Chew your food well and set down your utensils between bites. Eat with your non-dominant hand if you need a little help slowing down. Be sure to pause before indulging in seconds or dessert; allow a few minutes to pass before deciding if you’re still hungry.
- Don’t be afraid to experience negative emotions. We tend to avoid things that make us feel crummy. After all, who actually wants to feel lonely, angry, or rejected? But if we’re willing to sit with negative emotions for a short amount of time, they usually lessen a bit. I can be livid with someone, but after brewing over something they said or did for 10-20 minutes, I start losing steam. Experience your negative emotion, feel it, think through it, then make a conscious decision to release it. No Ben or Jerry needed.
- Don’t beat yourself up over an emotional eating episode. Most people experience setbacks on their journey to better health. So accept your setback, forgive yourself, and make a plan for what you’ll do differently the next time you find yourself in that situation.
- Create an effective stress-management plan. Stress weakens our resolve to make healthy choices, and so will undermine your efforts to end emotional eating. Download our free guide to learn how to identify your sources of stress, discover short and long-term management techniques, and develop a low-stress mindset.
- Seek help. If these techniques aren’t working to help you curb emotional eating, you may have underlying thought patterns preventing you from reaching your goals. A cognitive behavioral therapist can help you to identity unhealthy thought patterns and replace them with positive, productive ones.
Wrap It Up
By identifying your triggers, making a plan, practicing mindfulness, and setting yourself up for success, you are completely capable of ending the emotional eating cycle for good! You’ve got this! Let us know how we can help.
P.S. Miss the link to the free printable food journal? Nab it here to start identifying your emotional eating triggers today!
Disclosure: While all opinions are our own, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs, designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, at no additional cost to you.