Emotional eating is the culprit behind many people’s weight problems. Anytime you eat or overeat even though you are not hungry, you are eating due to some emotion. The emotion could be joy, sadness, anger, or boredom. Emotional eating is common. Just about everyone does it at one time or another. The key is to avoid making emotional eating your only strategy for dealing with emotions. This way you will avoid consuming an excess of calories on a regular basis that ultimately result in unwanted weight gain.
Here are four ways to stop emotional eating:
1. Check-in With Yourself
Before you eat a snack or a meal, develop the habit of asking yourself whether you are, in fact, hungry. You may find that you are eating because everyone else is or because you are bored. Getting to the bottom of your need for food will allow you to possibly choose alternative ways of dealing with your emotions.
2. Keep a Food Journal
Writing down what you consume throughout the day will help you to identify your eating patterns. For example, you may realize that you eat more before your weekly presentation at work. If this is due to stress, you can find other ways to deal with the stress such as deep breathing, meditation, journaling or listening to relaxing music. If your food intake is multiplied at night, you may associate that with specific activities. You may find that whenever you hang out with friends, you eat more. This allows you to identify the cause. Can you find other fun activities to do together that do not involve food?
3. Replace Eating with Activities
Each time you realize that you are eating because you are not hungry, think of an activity other than eating that will make you feel better. It helps to think through these options ahead of time. Choose an activity that lifts your mood. Going for a jog, hanging out in a beautiful park, walking by the water, watching your favorite movie, or chatting with a good-natured friend may all be options. Make a mental list of these activities and when you realize you are about to eat or overeat despite lack of hunger, try to replace food with one of these activities.
4. Choose Healthy Foods
Reaching for sweets when you are feeling sad is a common habit. Cookies, chocolate and ice cream are foods commonly used to boost the mood. Think of healthier alternatives for these foods. Instead of ice cream, choose low-fat flavored yogurt. Choose chocolate with lower sugar content or low-fat cookies. In this case, you are still satisfying your emotional eating urge but with foods lower in calories and fat. It can be difficult to stop emotional eating overnight. Choosing healthier foods is one way to deal with the issue while you identify the emotions underlying your cravings and gradually ease out of the emotional eating habit.