Are your eating habits strongly tied to your emotional state? It’s a common issue for those who struggle with their weight. Learning to recognize the signs of emotional eating can help you “cut the cord” and more easily follow a healthy diet.
Are you an emotional eater? Find out with these 6 questions:
- Do you turn to food when you feel stressed, lonely, sad, nervous, or upset?
- Do you eat to cure boredom?
- Does the act of eating make you feel better overall – even when you weren’t hungry?
- Does food comfort you or make you feel safe or secure?
- Do you often eat past the point of feeling satisfied, until you feel stuffed?
- Does the simple idea of eating less (such as going on a diet) make you feel uneasy?
The more strongly you identify with these questions, the more likely it is that you have a problem with emotional eating. In that case, you stand to make a lot of progress by solving this problem.
Here’s one powerful method to help identify emotional cravings. When you feel the urge to eat, ask yourself this question:
On a scale of 1-10: How hungry am I?
Only count a physical feeling of hunger, not simply how much you want to eat. If you often find yourself eating (or tempted to eat) when you rate your physical hunger as a low number, then this is definitely something you’ll want to work on fixing.
The good news is that the first step to fixing this problem is simply becoming aware of it. Asking yourself this question every time you eat can be enough for some people to reduce the severity of this problem, or even eliminate it altogether. You’ll likely find that after you form a habit of asking this question before you eat, you’ll feel pretty silly if you still choose to eat even when you recognize your lack of actual hunger.
The key is to be consistent with asking the question. Eventually, it becomes routine, and you’ll likely notice some changes. If asking the question alone isn’t enough, you’ll have to get a bit more strict about not allowing yourself to eat when you aren’t hungry.
If it’s too difficult to avoid eating in those situations, work at first on just delaying the action of eating. When you know you’re likely to give in anyway, take note of the time and reason with yourself that “If I’m still craving food in 10 minutes, I’ll eat”. Then go do something else to take your mind off it for that period of time. If you can’t do 10 minutes, do 5, or even 2. Remember: Any effort is better than no effort at all!
Find Something Else Enjoyable to Replace Comfort Eating
Comfort / emotional eating is just a soothing habit. Since the underlying cause isn’t related to actual hunger, that means instead of just trying to eliminate it you can try to replace it with something healthier.
What do you find soothing, besides food? If you enjoy having something tasty, try chewing gum instead. A fresh glass of tea, or even diet soda can give you the sensation of something in your stomach without adding calories.
It doesn’t have to be something you consume, either – it can be anything you find comforting. That could be listening to music, playing a video game, physical activity, or a blanket and a magazine.
Either way, replacing bad habits with healthy habits is the easiest option.
You don’t have to completely eliminate your favorite foods to lose weight – you just have to work out a responsible way to enjoy them. If you love potato chips, that doesn’t mean you have to eat a BAG of chips – try putting 6 of them on a napkin instead. Losing weight boils down to how much you eat more than what you eat.
As long as you work it into your overall diet/calorie plan, there’s no need to feel guilty as long as you’re still meeting your goal at the end of the day. If you have trouble not turning those responsible indulgences into a full-on binge, however, this might not be the best choice for you.
Realize Binge Eating Will Make You Feel WORSE – Not Better
Reminding yourself of this point before you give in can help shine rational light on your emotionally-driven situation. Most of us default to the idea that eating will make us feel better, but the remorse and guilt that follows ends up making us feel worse about ourselves.
When you realize this self-destructive behavior will only make you feel worse, that can provide motivation to power through the cravings.
Is Binge Eating a Serious/Ongoing Problem in Your Life?
A lot of us struggle with binge eating to a certain extent, but by taking steps to recognize it and stop binging, most of us can keep it under control. But for some people, those binges can take the form of an actual addiction that’s nearly impossible to control.
In fact, a serious, ongoing problem with binging can point to a possible underlying problem. If you can’t learn to control it yourself after a reasonable effort, you may benefit from an appointment with a mental health specialist. There’s no need to feel uneasy about considering this kind of help – it certainly doesn’t mean you’re crazy! In fact, the doctor might even prescribe an appetite suppressant to help make this whole process easier on you.