Feeding Your Emotions

Tips to conquer emotional eating.

Overeating. It happens for countless reasons. Maybe it’s mindless eating while you’re watching TV. You look down and realize you’ve just eaten the whole bag of popcorn. Perhaps you overeat when you’re bored or when you’re hanging out with friends.

But for many, overeating is a way to feed emotions. Stress, sadness, loneliness, guilt, and even good emotions like happiness can lead to overeating. Emotional eating is dangerous, because emotions are a part of everyday life. Overeating on a regular basis can quickly lead to obesity and a long list of health problems.

What’s the connection between emotions and food, and how can you overcome emotional eating?

Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive. – George Bernard Shaw

It’s In Your Mind

Certain foods, particularly sweets, stimulate your brain to produce serotonin, a hormone that gives you a pleasurable feeling and reduces your stress hormone cortisol. This feel good response makes you crave more of that type of food. After time, small amounts of that yummy food won’t offer the same benefits, so you eat more of it.

Others see food as a reward. Maybe as a child you were given special foods as a reward for good behavior or high grades. Your brain learned to associate food with good feelings. Now, after a good day, you may reward yourself with a carton of ice cream. Or after a tough day you may crave those good feelings and turn to a bag of chips for comfort. If this sounds like you, overeating has turned into a way to cope with emotions. Hence why many can connect their weight gain with a stressful life situation such as a divorce or the loss of a job.

Some turn to food to fill a void in life. Lonely or depressed? Food may become your best friend. Instead of spending time with friends or family, you head to the kitchen.

Break the Cycle

Weight loss for the emotional eater will not come from another diet. You can diet all you want and not keep the weight off for good. You’ve got to change your relationship to food if you’re going to shed pounds and keep them off for good.

The first step is to determine which emotions trigger your overeating habits. A great way to do this is by keeping a food diary. Each time you eat, write down the time, location, type of food, and the feelings or thoughts in your head at the moment. After a few weeks or even days, you may be able to pinpoint what situations or emotions lead to binge eating.

With this knowledge, you’re ready to learn and apply healthy ways to deal with emotions. If something good happens and you’re happy, develop a new rewarding ritual. Instead of going out to eat, treat yourself to a new pair of shoes. Focus on spending time with the people you care about rather than spending time with food. Eat when you’re stressed or anxious? Go for a walk or practice meditation techniques. If boredom or mindless eating is your weakness, choose foods that aren’t as easy to eat such as shelled nuts.

Redirect your attention and find something constructive to do instead of filling your mouth. Feelings of sadness can lead to overeating. Rather than sitting around feeling depressed, get out in the sun, go for a hike, call a friend, or watch a funny movie.

At the same time, you must change your eating habits. Eat only at set meal times, limit snacking, keep healthy foods in the house and throw out the rest, and find a friend to keep you accountable.

Emotions aren’t the enemy. Food is a good thing. But put the two together and it can be a dangerous combination. So when you eat, feed a hungry belly – not your emotions.

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