My top tips to stop emotional eating
I want to address a topic quite a few of my client’s struggle with Emotional eating. I also often get messages from women (and sometimes men) asking me what they can do to stop emotional eating.
Many people find it difficult to control themselves when it comes to food. Whenever they give into their cravings and overeat, they are very hard on themselves because they assume that this will destroy all the process they’ve made in the gym.
Here’s the thing you’ll need to understand if you struggle with emotional eating: Your feelings don’t need to be fed!
Consider these tools, which will help you overcome emotional eating:
1. Find out what your triggers are
Two of the major drivers of emotional eating are stress and anxiety. Some people turn to food for comfort while others turn to alcohol & drugs. The important thing to realize is that neither food nor alcohol or drugs are true solutions to the problem. They are only a way to distract ourselves and avoid dealing with the actual problem. We don’t know how to cope with bad feelings and therefore simply try to avoid confronting them all together. But this is a vicious circle.
Another common trigger is boredom. We turn to food because we simply don’t know what to do with ourselves. Even happiness can be a trigger (more on this in point 6). So your first task is to find out what the trigger is for you and to become AWARE of it more often.
2. Learn new ways to cope with emotions
Now the next step is to recognize that it’s OKAY to have bad feelings and not to be happy all the time. In our society, there is often this idea that negative emotions need to be banished right away. We therefore often do NOT learn how to handle and process them properly. Simply avoiding negative feelings is dangerous and harming, especially if we turn to food or even drugs instead of handling the situation as we have learned in point 1.
Emotions are like waves, they build up BUT they also PASS. Face ALL of your feelings, the good AND the bad ones. Try to understand where your feelings come from, accept them and then learn to let go.
3. Eat mindfully
This is SO important. Sit down when you have a meal, don’t eat while watching TV or while you are working. Slow down and enjoy every bite. Feel the texture of your food, notice the smell, enjoy every bite. This way it’s easier to stop eating when you’re satisfied and you also start appreciating your food & help your body with digesting it properly.
Emotional eaters often feel like they’re not in control but if you practice mindful eating, you’ll see that you will gain control. You always have a choice and YOU are the one who is in control – do NOT let food control you!
4. Move your body, stay active and get enough quality sleep
Sometimes we’re simply tired and our body feels like it needs more energy. Therefore, we often turn to food because it’s a quick way to get energy. But it is unfortunately not what your body actually needs! That is the reason why poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain, so make sure you get enough rest! In addition, moving your body keeps you busy and your mind off food lowers circulating cortisol which is often called, stress hormone & releases endorphins which boost your mood. When we feel down, it’s more likely to turn to food as a way to make us feel better. So make sure you feel good most of the time in the first place.
5. Eat whole-foods and get enough Vitamin D
Nutrient-dense foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts/seeds and avocados keep your blood sugar level steady and are packed with stress-management nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Vitamin D also helps to reduce depression and anxiety, so make sure you get enough sunlight! When your body is healthy and you feel great, you’re way less likely to be an emotional-eater.
6. Never reward yourself with food
NEVER ever reward yourself with food. Instead, find something that also brings you pleasure. Go for a walk or a hike, go to the beach, meet friends, hit the gym, take a bath, read a book, schedule a massage, get the dress you wanted to buy since weeks or book the trip you always wanted to do. Food is here to nourish your body but it’s not a reward.
When you use food as a way to reward yourself, you will attach feelings to food which makes emotional-eating much more likely to happen.
7. Remember: Nobody is perfect
Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all make mistakes, and we all fall back into old habits. It takes about 66 days to form a new habit, be patient & stay consistent! When you fall off the wagon, the first step is to realize it and then get back on track as soon as possible. Do NOT punish yourself with hours of cardio or restricting your calories. Just start again. Which point did you find most helpful? As always: feel free to message me if you have any questions!