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Emotional eating is a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions that we are not comfortable with. Negative emotions include stress, anxiety, fear, boredom and sadness. Many of us use emotional eating to make ourselves feel better. We’re eating to satisfy our emotional needs, rather than to satisfy physical hunger. Of course, if you’re like me, you feel guilty immediately afterwards because you know eating didn’t help. There are many causes of emotional and mindless eating. Just the rigor of daily life may trigger the emotional eating.
Examples of triggers include:
Stress at work
Relationship conflicts with friends and/or family
This kind of eating is just not related to negative emotion. Many of us also use food as a reward, or a way to celebrate something great.
“I went to the gym every day this week so I can have this slice of cake”. Does this sound familiar? This is me!
Drink water – and lots of it.
When the thought of grabbing a snack enters that brain of yours – be determined to drink water first. Why? Often we think we’re hungry, when in actuality we’re just thirsty.
Before each meal drink a cup of water.
Use the alarm clock on your cell phone to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day. Although I have a predominately desk job – I still forget to drink the water sitting on my desk IN FRONT OF MY FACE! Once I start typing reports and taking phone calls it completely slips my mind. What works for me – literally setting my alarm for each hour of my day- it’s super easy and simple – but SUPER effective in making sure I get my water intake for the day.
Find Something to Do/Distract Yourself
Seriously, several ideas for this one. If you have a hobby, start a new project. Do some yard work. Do anything that will get your mind off eating.
Go for a walk. If you’re at work and tempted to snack out of boredom, get up and walk down the hallway and back. If you’re at home, go for a walk around the block or the nearest park.
Crocheting has worked for me! Don’t laugh. For months I’ve told myself I don’t have time to crochet because I have other projects to work on. Well, crochet keeps me from snacking because I need both hands to do so! It also RELAXES me! This is an added bonus.
Listen to music, read, color or draw a picture, have a cup of tea, call a friend, practice deep breathing; if home, take a bath. Basically, you’re doing something that you enjoy or something that helps you feel better, instead of running to food.
Keep a Food and Emotion Journal/Diary
There’s plenty of trackers you can find on Pinterest for ideas to track food eaten, etc. You can find the same for tracking emotions.
Why not combine both and surprise yourself with the amazing results you will see? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I simply carry a pocket size notebook in my purse and during the day I place it on my desk while I’m at work. You can also check out this food journal from Amazon if you want something more “official”.
When the thought of wanting to eat enters my brain I simply jot down the time, what I want to eat and then I identify the emotion. This can be sad, happy, stressed, bored, etc. By doing this I also realize that anxiety often plays a role in my mindless eating – I do so to calm the knots in my stomach.
Don’t deny the emotion! Acknowledge it and write it down. When you have time take a minute to dig deeper to find out what may have led to that emotion.
After just a week of doing this I was able to see a pattern of emotions that were related to stressers at my job, but also from home. This also helped me track what I was eating.
The most surprising part of this? Taking the time to identify emotions and write them down distracted me from actually eating. After taking the time to identify and then write about the emotion I felt like I needed to focus and get back to work.
Don’t Keep Junk Food In the House or at the Office
You can’t eat what’s not in the house, right? This sounds so simple, like way too easy? Be proactive and REMOVE the temptation!
Go ahead and say it… you have kids in the house and it’s not fair to them to not have snack foods in the house. STOP WITH THE EXCUSES ALREADY! Yes, I’m talking to myself here as well. I have a hard time saying “no” to my kids so I get it. There are times that I will agree to get chips and/or snacks but they put them away where I can’t see them. My kiddos are a bit older so this works for us.
We should want our children to develop healthy eating habits. What has worked for me is to have healthy, fresh fruits and veggies to snack on instead of junk food. This way the entire family benefits. Sure, the kids may complain at first but they will adjust.
As for snacks in the office – DON’T DO IT. Keep healthy snacks around to munch on. Again, if the food isn’t there, you can’t eat it. I for one, rarely feel like going to the vending machine to satisfy a sweet tooth! I now keep packets of tuna at my desk. I also keep cut up veggies in the fridge at work.
Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry
The key here is to not let yourself get so hungry that when you do start to eat, you can’t quit. If after feeling hunger pains and drinking 8oz of water, the hunger is still there, eat a healthy snack.
For me, I typically get hungry between 3 and 5. I come home, start preparing dinner and then go crazy with eating everything I can get my hands on! Why? Because instead of eating a small healthy snack after lunch, I convince myself I can just wait until dinner.
WRONG ANSWER! Prepare your lunch and snacks for the day, ahead of time. Always have something on hand to snack on and be consistent with eating. For some, eating every few hours is key to eliminate the hunger pains. For others, 3 meals and 2 snacks is sufficient, not necessarily on a time schedule.
Try different things and then stick with what works for you. On days I eat low carb, I can go longer in between meals. It’s okay if what works for you doesn’t work for the next person.
Fill Up On Vegetables
You’ve tried drinking water and find that you’re still hungry. Keep fresh veggies on hand for these moments. Instead of sugary food and/or drink, go for the vegetables. Vegetables are low calorie and healthy for us, even if you eat low carb.
This trick has worked wonders for my waist line! I personally do not like the crunch of vegetables. I prefer soft and sugary food. However, I find that because it takes longer to chew the veggies, I ultimately eat less. Not to mention I take in fewer calories, and I don’t have to worry about coming off a sugar high moments later. Give it a try!
Allow yourself to take a five minute break. If at work and your position allows, stand up and stretch. A change of scenery often takes the mind off food and shifts the focus to something else. Watching funny videos is also effective. Again, set the timer if you need to – but give yourself five minutes.
If videos aren’t your thing, go talk to a co-worker for a few minutes and then come back to your work. The short break should wake you up and help to re-focus your attention on something besides food.