5 Tips to Help Control Emotional Eating
Food is pretty powerful because it is tied to your emotions, we reach for food when we are stressed, and we use it to help our negative self-focused feelings.
What’s your go-to food? When do you eat it?
Emotional eating is when we eat in the absence of actual hunger so we can feel better about ourselves. If you don’t have healthy coping mechanisms for your feelings, you may be more inclined to turn to food — overeating and ultimately gaining weight.
Related - Gain Weight Without Getting Fat
Food is like a double-edged sword to someone who suffers from emotional eating. On one hand, we need it to stay alive, but on the other hand, it helps you stuff your feelings down. Not only this, but when we do process our emotions through eating, we further produce the same feelings of guilt and disgust that caused us to eat in the first place.
Emotional eating is rough. You can’t process your emotions, but yet you feel that you need to eat. You may think you feel hungry, you’ll have cravings, and you definitely don’t care about the calorie count. But you can take control of your emotional eating.
It took me losing 120 pounds twice, but I’ve been able to finally take control of my emotional eating — and here are my five tips I used.
Control Your Emotional Eating
#1 - You Need to Find Your Triggers
The first thing you have to learn things about yourself without judgment. There should be no negative feelings here. No matter how bad. I mean seriously, I forgive myself for eating multiple large pizzas per day when I tried to kill myself with eating.
You just need to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself: What causes you to turn to food?
Do you eat because you are stressed? Do you have crippling anxiety? Are you bored? Depressed? Lonely? I invite you to write down on paper your triggers.
If you know what your trigger is, that’s good. Now you can plan for it and be on the lookout when it happens. You simply need to approach yourself with compassion and remind yourself that turning to food doesn’t help you work through what you are feeling.
Personally, finding my reasons for reaching for food was harder than addressing when I was about to reach for food. It took a handful of times of me sitting in the drive-thru of Arby’s and telling myself I shouldn’t have gotten food before I actually started to “get it.”
Be adamant and remember your goals and that you want to stop turning to food, but don’t be so harsh on yourself when it happens — there’s an adjustment period.
If you work through this adjustment period, you’ll be able to have a handle on what you are putting in your mouth.
#2 - Find Better Coping Mechanisms
Once you figure out what your triggers are, you can start looking for other outlets to cope with your feelings. Like many, food is the only coping mechanism.
Instead of food, try to meditate, exercise, go for a hike in nature, calling up a friend, listen to music, or go for a long drive with music blasting.
I’ve found keeping a journal of my feelings — along with a food an exercise journal — has helped me address my feelings without food.
Pick up a new book, find a new hobby. Something that you can put your mind on other than whatever thoughts that make you want to jump for food. I’ve used gaming as a coping mechanism for so long, so find something you enjoy and run with it.
#3 - Make Time for Yourself
Being overwhelmed or bored are two emotional triggers that many face.
Feeling burned out or overwhelmed are two triggers that turned me to food. Boredom is another trigger for most.
If you are overwhelmed, get all of those thoughts down onto paper, make an action plan for them on that same piece of paper, and let it go. You have the information on paper, so let your brain decompress.
If you have too much time on your hands, find a new hobby or activity you can start. Adding a brief workout session during your downtime can improve your health, energize you, and promotes well-being.
Lastly, take time at the end of the night to unwind and decompress before sleep. If you go to bed with your phone in your hand, you are essentially ruining your sleep.
#4 - Work on Your Eating Schedule
If you have fluctuating blood sugar levels, we can feel hungry when we aren’t. This is why eating consistently throughout the day is important.
When your blood sugar tanks, it can negatively affect your mood and causes you to run to those unhealthy foods.
Try to get more fruits, veggies, and lean protein into your diet. If possible, try to employ an 80/20 rule. That is, 80% of your calories should come from nutritious food sources, while 20% of your calories can come from whatever you’d like.
Have that candy bar if it fits into your 20%.
#5 - Enjoy What You Eat
Do you plop down and open up your phone while you eat? Do you turn on the TV and clean the plate?
With all of these distractions in our lives, it’s hard to actually be present when eating. Before you start thinking oh “woo woo be present,” this is something that’s worked for me to actually enjoy the food.
Is your food sweet, salty, sour, or spicy? How about that crunch from the fresh spinach? Is the broccoli flavorful?
Stop and taste your food. Eating slower will also help your body send a satiated signal and can save you from overeating.
Start logging your food so you can get a better understanding of how many calories you eat. Something that’s helped me enjoy my food is having a solid log that I can eat a cookie or something sinful without doubt or regret.
Wrapping It Up
Dealing with your emotional eating will take a bit of work, but it is worth it. You will no longer feel enslaved by the fast food restaurants, you won’t have to stock up on chips, and you definitely will be able to achieve your fitness goals.
If you struggle with emotional eating, you should talk to a therapist to help get you going. You can overcome emotional eating without one, though.
Apply these tips, be honest with yourself, and have the desired outcome of finding a better coping mechanism. I personally like to pick things up and put them down.