Understanding Emotional Eating

UnderstandingEmotional Eating

You return home after an 8-hour day at work that was jam-packed with a constantly ringing phone, numerous new messages in your inbox and a handful of customer complaints…every hour. You had to cut your lunch break short and barely had a moment to take a bathroom break throughout the afternoon. Breathing a sigh of relief as you walk into your kitchen, you reach into the refrigerator and reach for…

a) A kale salad with freshly sliced peppers, olives and strips of chicken breast

b) A bottled smoothie that you picked up from the grocery store on your last shopping trip

c) A pre-prepared perfectly portioned meal, featuring lots of veggies and a small serving of a lean protein

d) Whatever the least healthy and most fattening option is (most likely, a slice of cake that you end up topping off with not one but two scoops of ice cream)

When it comes to our emotions, they are the rulers of our everyday lives. Think about how you feel when you get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t naturally feel energized and motivated, think about how the rest of your day goes if you don’t take steps to steer yourself towards more positive emotions. Most likely, the rest of the day goes on with you continuing to feel fatigued and uninspired.

Precautions need to be taken in order to ensure that we are successful in our eating habits. If you don’t plan ahead, you are much more likely to overeat, indulge in calorie-dense and nutrient-deficient foods and feel more stressed out about your diet while also experiencing a major decline in self-confidence.

Here are some things you can do to cut down on your emotional eating:

  • Plan ahead and decide what you are going to eat during the next few days or even the whole week ahead. Prepare your meals and snacks so that you aren’t pressed for time when you’re ready to eat.
  • Create a “backup plan” for those moments that you may find yourself facing temptation. If you know that you swallow an entire pint of ice cream when you feel stressed out from helping your kids with homework for three hours, don’t keep ice cream in the house and choose a different activity to allow you to decompress afterwards. (Maybe coloring? Journaling? Playing video games? Just a few of ideas…)
  • Always have a snack on hand. Things don’t always go according to plan. You get tied up on a conference call or there’s a major roadblock on your way home. If you’ve got emergency snacks available, you won’t be completely ravenous once you finally get back to your “regularly scheduled program.”
  • Keep a journal. Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is bottle up your feelings. If you do not want to confide in a friend or loved one, get your feelings out on paper. Be aware of how this makes you feel, especially if it can give you as much (or more) relief as indulging in a candy bar.

The one step that you can begin to take right now that will make a huge difference in your struggle against emotional eating is to be mindful. When you are making choices about what to eat, think about whether or not the food you’re craving is going to hurt or amplify your overall health. Be aware of whether you are eating for a reason other than feeling hungry! Yes, food tastes good but food is fuel. Your body will let you know when it needs it.

You may even want to keep a log for a few days that details your food and beverage choices accompanied by how you are feeling throughout the day. Review the log at the end of the week and look for patterns that could be causing your bad food behaviors. Then, create a realistic action plan to make changes!