Health Flip: How to Stop Emotional Eating and Learn to Eat Mindfully
If you’re a bit like me, just the hint of a little stress will send you straight to the kitchen, in search of something yummy, satisfying, and probably not-so-healthy. The intent is, of course, to indulge in some delicious food in order to banish the thoughts that are causing you to stress. Stress manifests in different ways, but many of us can relate to the concept of emotional eating. But do we know how to stop emotional eating?
Ever catch yourself elbow deep in a bag of pre-popped popcorn after a crap-tastically stressful day? I have. Hell, I have (many times) planned an entire “cheat day” around all the foods I want to eat. I’ve planned entire vacations around eating.
Emotional eating, or stress eating, is when you consume food not out of hunger, but out of anxiety, frustration, or sadness. For some, emotional eating is triggered by a particular traumatic event but for others, it can just be a habitual reaction to stress or emotional turbulence.
But don’t worry—emotional eating is somewhat normal, and, like with anything, if you approach it with a plan, it doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. Besides, we all deserve a treat every now and then, right?
In fact, emotional eating can be great for relieving stress, if you choose the right foods, or the right amounts of the not-so-right food, and, provided it doesn’t get too out of hand. Did you know that eating puts our body into a state of relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nerves? Indulging in and savoring the flavors of food feels good and can lift our moods instantly. Making us flip from grouchy to giddy in no time!
But when emotional eating no longer relieves but rather contributes to stress, it can get out of hand. That’s when we need to learn how to stop emotional eating before it takes over.
How to Stop Emotional Eating: Flip from Guilty to Acceptance
For some, emotional eating can lead to guilty thoughts—this is totally unproductive and you’ve got to flip your way of thinking. Before you give in to emotional eating, set up limits. If you know that eating 3 cookies will make you say, “Oh, well, everyone deserves 3 cookies now and then, and so do I,” then great. Chow down on 3 cookies, and enjoy the heck out of them.
But, if you know that if you have 5 cookies, you’ll feel bad about yourself, be absolutely sure to serve yourself only 3 cookies. Don’t let what should be a pleasurable thing, like treating yourself to some chocolate chip yumminess, give way to self-loathing and feelings of shame.
How to Stop Emotional Eating: Flip from Secrecy to Full Disclosure
If you feel as if you want to hide your eating habits, you know that you are making poor choices. I’m a Health and Wellness Coach, and yet, I’m never ashamed to post a picture of me eating churros and drinking a glass of champagne on my Instagram stories.
I don’t believe in denying myself any of things I love to eat and drink (and do for that matter). It’s all about balance. I know that I made good and healthy eating choices 9 out of 10 times. So, the 1 time I don’t, I make sure I enjoy every last bite. You should too.
How to Stop Emotional Eating: Flip from Stressed to De-Stressed
To prevent emotional eating from advancing to the next stage, we need to tackle the problem at its roots: stress, frustration, and other emotional ruts.
Take up meditation or yoga to simultaneously tackle stress and improve your self-discipline. Engage in a stress-free activity like painting or walking your fur baby, and take plenty of time to distance yourself from whatever may be causing your stress—whether that is work, a stressful home environment, or the people in your life.
If you journal, consider making an emotional eating chart, so you can see if there are any patterns in your eating habits.. Records of your day-to-day eating choices will help prevent you from putting on unwanted pounds and improve your overall mindfulness when it comes to consumption.
How to Stop Emotional Eating: Flip from Unhealthy Choices to Healthy Choices
And finally, to manage your emotional eating in a far more healthier way, look for healthy alternatives to your favorite go-to snacks, such as oven baked sweet potato fries instead of the regular deep fried kind, or carrot sticks and hummus instead of tortilla chips.
Easier said than done, right? Yes and no. Sometimes, a carrot stick just isn’t going to cut it. So, indulge in a small amount of whatever it is you are craving. And then fill up with a healthier side dish. There is always some healthy or healthy-ish food that I crave for a week or two before I move on to the next craving. Sometimes it’s raw veggies and hummus, sometimes it’s ceviche. Whatever your cravings are, I’m sure you can find at least one that isn’t deep fried, coated in sugar, or full of fat.
How to Stop Emotional Eating: Flip from raiding the cookie drawer to PREPARED
Being prepared is the best way to avoid making poor choices. I always keep raw veggies and a healthy dip on hand, as well as some boiled eggs, and any other healthy foods that I’m craving that week. Since I’m busy (like, no kidding, who isn’t?) I keep pre-made meal cups by Daily Harvest in my freezer. Daily Harvest cups come all different varieties like smoothies, soups, full meals, chia parfaits (for when you need a guilt-free sweet) and even superfood lattes.
Now, I know that I always have a yummy, super-healthy choice on hand, and keeps me from grabbing an unhealthy snack when I’m hungry and short on options. This alone has improved my diet, and changed the way I choose to indulge and snack. Use my code for 3 free cups to try for yourself: RE-ALEDHH4
Comment below to share your usual go-to craving food is. What is your vice? We all have one (ok….maybe a few!).