A range of feelings can trigger emotional eating; whether we’re sad, lonely, happy, or reach for comfort food. But bingeing is triggered by deprivation, which leads to a vicious cycle.
I emotionally eat out of habit or turn to certain foods for comfort when I am feeling tired or bored. It is not only until l started to make myself more aware of what I was doing before I came up with strategies on how to overcome emotional eating which brings me to my first tip.
1. Awareness. Emotional eating can be a direct result of not being conscious of what or why you’re eating. Try to remain mindful of what and when you are eating. Eat without distractions and be present with your food. Ask yourself next time you go to reach for that snack in the pantry “Will this give me energy or will this make me feel any better?” Most of the time you might find you are subconsciously reaching for that chocolate bar or packet of chips and not even enjoying it. A lot of people do this in front of the television, sit there and scoff back a whole packet of chips then don’t even remember doing it until the end. This is why being ‘present’ with your food with minimal distractions is a good tip and making yourself more aware.
2. Give up restriction and deprivation. Restricting your food intake puts your body into starvation mode and often leads to binging. Instead of depriving your body of food, it’s time to start nourishing yourself and healing your relationship with nutrition. It’s important that we treat our bodies with love and care, and with this comes making healthier choices, particularly at meal times. This is not going to be a quick fix, learning to gain that positive relationship with food takes time, especially if you have any history of an eating disorder.
3. Physiology. Letting yourself get too hungry or too tired is the best way to leave yourself vulnerable to emotional eating. When your body is hungry or tired, it not only sends strong messages to your brain that signal it to eat, but when we’re hungry and tired, we’re not on our A game. This leaves us less equipped to fight off cravings or urges. The solution? You guessed it! Get plenty of sleep, eat plenty of nutrient-dense wholefoods and ensure each meal is satiating which will balance out those blood sugar levels. I also believe in the 80/20 approach. This means that 80 per cent I eat well and 20 per cent of the time, I indulge with joy. You can also think about it like the 3/21 rule where you eat 21 meals per week (3 per day) and 3 out of those 21 meals can be whatever you like (e.g buy your lunch one day throughout the week, get takeaways one night and go out for breakfast on the weekend).
4. Take care of your stress levels. While stress is somewhat inevitable in our modern-day lives, it doesn’t mean we should put our health on the backburner. High amounts of stress affect our adrenal glands, causing them to release higher amounts of cortisol and adrenalin. Switch off social media in the evenings, do some meditation and practise some belly breathing (diaphramtic) before meal times. Ensure you treat yourself to regular holidays and turn off your electronic devices and really connect with nature.
Emotional eating is a complex topic and everyone will have different triggers. This is an area that I cover a bit more when you book in for a consultation