Experts believe that up to 75% of overeating may be due to reasons other than physical hunger. If you want to improve your relationship with food, learn to identify and control emotional eating.
Recognize the Signs
- Understand how emotional eating works. Emotional eating occurs when you use food to manage your feelings, rather than to satisfy your hunger. This can trigger guilt and create a cycle where you eat because you feel bad and feel bad because you eat. Positive feelings can also play a role if you associate food with celebrating.
- Keep a balanced perspective. It’s okay to take pleasure in food and enjoy sharing it with others. Concerns arise only when emotional eating interferes with your health and well being.
- Ask yourself if you feel out of control. You may have lost control of your eating habits if you want to make healthier choices but keep backsliding. Be honest with yourself if you resolve to have yogurt for breakfast but wind up stopping off for a bacon sandwich on the way to work.
- Notice your cravings. A strong desire for specific dishes is a common symptom of emotional eating. If you’re actually hungry, everything on the menu is likely to sound appealing. When you’re depressed over a recent breakup, ice cream may be the only thing you want to order.
- Evaluate your hunger levels. Another danger sign is eating when you already feel full. Slow down and decide if you really need another helping of mashed potatoes.
- Consider your family history. The way you eat may be grounded in patterns that started in childhood. Maybe you were rewarded with a homemade cake when you got good grades.
Develop a Healthier Relationship With Food
- Keep a journal. It’s easier to spot patterns when you write down when and why you eat. You may notice that you snack on potato chips when you’re bored, even though you’ve just eaten a full meal.
- Substitute healthy foods. Cravings can be used to benefit you if you reach for nutritious alternatives. Homemade pita triangles dipped in olive oil can replace French fries with ketchup. Indulge in fresh fruit when you want dessert.
- Control portion sizes. Eliminating all your favourite treats can cause a backlash from deprivation. See if a sliver of pie makes you just as happy as a big slice and savour every bite.
- Seek distractions. Engage in productive activities that will take your mind off your stomach. Go for a walk, read a book, or do some housework.
- Develop positive coping techniques. Comfort foods deliver only short-term relief. Find more effective methods for managing daily stress, such as meditation, music or physical exercise.
- Avoid temptation. If you find your favourite cookies to be too irresistible, banish them from your pantry. Choose restaurants that specialise in grilled fish if you have trouble declining fried chicken.
- Get adequate sleep. Being chronically tired makes you more vulnerable to overeating. Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night. Take a warm bath before bed to raise your body temperature if you have trouble falling asleep.
- Reward your good behaviour. Reinforce the positive changes you make in your behaviour. Set realistic goals and praise yourself when you attain them. Buy yourself something special or visit your favourite museum.
- Seek professional help. If you need more help to change the way you eat, talk with an expert. Counselling may clarify the underlying issues you need to address. Nutritionists can advise you on a diet that will work with your individual lifestyle.
Liberate yourself from emotional eating so you can protect your health and enjoy your food more. These methods will help put you back in control.