Your emotions affect every cell in your body. Mind and body, mental and physical, are intertwined.
In the past, I really struggled with emotional eating. When I was stressed or angry, I’d rely on a fattening meal or dessert to improve my mood. When I was bored, I passed the time away by snacking on a bag of chips and before I knew it, half the bag was gone. When I was feeling down, I used comfort foods to lift my spirits. These tendencies were a reflection of the habits that I had developed over the years. I had resolved my problems with food so much that I was pretty much on auto-pilot. I didn’t think about what I was doing, I just did it. Thankfully, I was able to develop new habits by making myself aware of what I was doing. I found a way to be more conscious of my decisions and my life changed for the better. Not only did I eat healthier, but I was more in control of my feelings overall and that made me a better me.
Now, when I’m tempted to eat to fill an emotional void, I call a friend or find something fun to do. When someone says or does something that makes me upset, I now talk it through rather than hold in my feelings and eat. When I have a tough day at work, I take a walk or workout to relieve my stress. Despite this progress, there are still times where I’m tempted to resort to emotional eating. And yes, occasionally I give in. In those times, I remind myself that perfection is not the goal, progress is. As long as my good days outweigh my bad days, I'm still ahead of the game.
Conquering Emotional Eating
To break this habit, keep a journal of your food choices and emotions for one week. During this week, you don’t have to change what you eat. Your only assignment is to ask yourself two questions every time you eat: “Am I truly hungry?” and “Am I eating to soothe my emotions?” It is important that you answer these questions honestly. Being true to you is the only way you can move forward.
After you have completed the exercise, take a look your food choices over the course of the week. How often did you eat when you weren’t hungry? What type of emotions were you feeling at the time? Is there a pattern where a certain emotion triggers a desire for a particular food? Were your comfort foods healthy foods or did they tend to be high in fat, sugar, and calories?
As you analyze your food journal, you will learn the answer to these questions and more. Now that you are aware of how your mood affects your eating habits, it’s time to come up with a plan of action for when (not if) these feelings resurface. What will you do instead of eat? Don't rush through this exercise; give it some serious thought. The only way to overcome unhealthy habits is to replace them with healthy ones. Be sure to put your plan in writing so that you can refer to it when needed.
I found these articles on emotional eating to be very helpful. They may be helpful to you as well.
Originally published: March 27, 2011
coach tam's Blog
40-something who loves food, fitness, and fun!