Are you wondering how to stop emotional eating? This is a problem for millions of people around the world. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. If you don’t take steps to address your problem in the early stages, it could lead to more serious eating disorders later on, such as night-eating syndrome or binge-eating disorder. In most cases, you would require professional help to overcome such disorders.
However, emotional eating is still controllable because you can stop it early on before it sinks in too deeply and takes over your life. In this article we’ll point out the common triggers that cause this annoying problem and what you can do to eradicate them.
How to Stop Emotional Eating
Don’t sit back and assume that the problem will go away on its own. Many people don’t even realize that they are emotional eaters because the visible consequences don’t become apparent until much later. That’s what makes it so tricky.
Neglecting to control your eating habits affects you not only mentally but physically, too. More people than ever are diagnosed with health issues such as inflammation, blood pressure problems, high cholesterol and numerous other problems that result from poor diet choices.
It’s no secret that the standard American diet is high in empty calories, additives and preservatives but lacks nutritional value. So many processed foods contain high-fructose corn syrup, that has made people addicted to eating. They are made to taste so good… that people can’t get enough of them.
It’s now more important than ever that you watch what you eat. You MUST treat food as fuel and not as therapy. Don’t forget that you should eat to satisfy your stomach and not to please your heart. This is the principal cause of the emotional eating problem – you eat when you’re not really hungry. Now let’s see why this happens.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
Stress is a major cause of many health problems in today’s world. Whichever way you look at it, if you live a stressful lifestyle, it will either directly or indirectly affect your health.
Everybody wants everything at lightning speed. They use instant text messaging, microwave ovens, miracle diets and more, just to get rapid results. People expect instant financial successes, idyllic relationships that don’t require any effort on their part, the physique of a movie star in 3 weeks… Expectations of quickness and effectiveness such as these create a frenetic lifestyle that moves along at runaway speed.
Most people believe they can handle it. However, leading a stressful life will leave you feeling emotionally drained. Your life will seem to have lost meaning. You’ll just be a cog in the machine that keeps spinning away.
The problem becomes worse when your dreams take a long time to manifest. Think about it for a moment: it takes time to build a business that gives you financial independence. It takes time to develop a body that turns heads… and keeping a marriage or relationship healthy takes a lifetime of work.
Because of stress, millions of people suffer from anxiety, depression and other negative emotions. They want quick results and they want them now. How do they cope when life doesn’t move at their pace? They curse, fret and stress themselves out. Eating has become a way for them to manage their stress.
Need we say it? Boredom is one of the causes of emotional eating. Sitting in front of the TV for hours watching mindless reality shows while nibbling on chips, cookies and cakes has become the norm for so many folks nowadays. There’s an emptiness in their lives that they try to fill up with food. The food gives them a temporary “high” but these elevated feelings quickly drop so they eat again and again just to feel some level of satiation.
This is the cold, hard truth, as sad as it might seem. The best way to remove this boredom cause would be to undergo a lifestyle change. Find some new and exciting things to do to kill the monotony. You could start a new hobby – gardening or yoga, for example – or something that makes you feel happy.
It will take some effort to push past the apathy and actually get down to doing something different in your life. However, once you start gaining momentum you’ll feel much happier and more fulfilled.
Now that you have some sense of purpose in your life, you’ll gradually become less dependent on food to make you happy. Eliminate the boredom and monotony from your life and your emotional eating will be eased.
3. Old Habits
Yes, old habits die hard and that certainly applies here. If you grew up in a household where your family was eating all the time without giving much thought to what was being eaten, chances are that you’d do the same. Or perhaps you like to hang out with friends a lot of the time, eating pizzas and “Big Macs”.
After a while, you become addicted to these unhealthy foods and constantly crave them. You indulge at every available chance, even when you’re not hungry. These foods make you feel good and happy. No matter how you look at it, this is emotional eating.
The only way you can overcome this is to be mindful and gradually take steps to break the habit. This might mean stopping hanging out with your friends for a while because such situations make it just too tempting to resist the food and drinks.
To take up the slack, try out some new, healthier activities. You don’t want boredom to set in – and by now, you should remember why.
Eating When You’re Not Hungry
If you eat when you’re not hungry, it’s emotional eating. If you’re still reaching for a bag of cookies even though you’re already full, it’s emotional eating. If you’re constantly visiting the fridge or aimlessly dropping junk food into your supermarket basket to eat later at home, you’re an emotional eater.
While it’s perfectly OK to indulge in the occasional ice cream or glass of sherry, emotional eaters do such things all the time. Their lives revolve around food and they eat mindlessly. There is a total lack of awareness. This is a sign of emotional overeating.
If you’re just following the motions without even realizing how much food is going into your mouth, you’re overeating. You’re either stressed out or compensating for some other feelings.
The first step towards overcoming boredom is to exercise awareness. Before eating, always ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If the answer is “no”, forget the food – you don’t need it.
Now it’s time to examine your life. Be mercilessly honest in your self-appraisal. Are you in a marriage or relationship that has lost its sparkle? Are you unhappy in your job? Perhaps you can’t find employment and feel useless? Whatever the case may be, there will be underlying causes.
You need to address these causes as soon as possible. Food is not the answer. If something is stressing you out, you need to take steps to relieve the stress by joining a yoga class, taking regular walks or something else that works for you.
Did you know that meditation is one of the best ways to eliminate stress when performed regularly? If you’re not sure how to meditate, a guided meditation program for beginners would be an excellent place to start.
If you come home exhausted after a day’s hard work, go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. Don’t vegetate in front of the TV and chomp on whatever’s at hand. While restful sleep can work wonders, unnecessary eating will leave you wondering why nothing is working out in your life.
Use Meditation, NOT Medication!
TIP: If you’re feeling depressed, avoid taking depression medication like Prozac! All drugs have side effects; meditation is much better to get rid of depression and is completely safe.
Why not start a food journal? Make a note of what you eat so you can see how much you’re eating. Then, try to gradually cut down your food consumption in stages. Don’t try to go cold turkey all at once. This will make it more stressful and you might find yourself binge eating at night.
People sometimes try aggressive diets to lose weight; in most cases, they fail. You’ll find it a struggle to maintain the diet and you’re bound to slip up now and then. When you do, you’ll binge eat whatever you’ve been depriving yourself of. Then you’ll feel guilty and end up discarding the diet and going back to your former eating habits.
The key to succeeding with weight loss is to approach it in a slow and controlled manner. By gradually cutting calories, you’ll lose pounds without having to deal with binging and other eating problems. That’s the best way to go about it.
The Difference Between Real Hunger and Emotional Hunger
In most cases, the causes of emotional eating will fall under one of the 3 categories we’ve mentioned above. There may be exceptions but the fact remains that the best way to treat emotional eating is to give some thought to what you are eating. As the saying goes, you should eat to live and not live to eat.
You must be able to tell when you’re genuinely hungry. Real hunger usually makes your stomach growl. If you find yourself reaching for food when you’re not hungry, you’ll need to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are you bored? Is this a habit or mechanism to self-soothe? Will eating the food make you feel better?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you need to stop and find something to do instead of eating. You need to actively break the habit. You must learn how to comfort yourself without comfort foods.
When you go to the supermarket, do NOT buy foods that you know you should not be eating. Steer clear of chips, cookies, ice-cream, pastries and all the other pleasure foods. You don’t want these foods lying around the house, constantly tempting you.
Just to make it easier on yourself, you could buy a small tub of ice cream or a small box of cookies – but only one item. That way, the damage won’t be so bad if you give in to temptation and raid the fridge. If it’s not in the fridge, you obviously won’t be eating it and will probably go on to do something else, like take a nap or read a magazine.
This may seem extreme but emotional eating is a problem that requires extreme measures. After a couple of weeks of intelligent eating, you’ll notice that your weight is dropping and you’re more aware of what you eat. You’ll be more in tune with how you feel and realize that you’ve been “medicating” with food.
From this point on, your situation should steadily improve as you stop rewarding yourself with food. You’ll view food as a means of sustenance and fuel, and you’ll be making better eating choices. You’ll start feeling better and looking brighter.
Always remember that, whatever your problem may be, the solution is not in the fridge. As long as you bear that in mind and act accordingly, you will overcome emotional eating.