You know that for most of us, food is so much more than just fuel. We eat for many reasons other than keeping ourselves alive.
Some of those reasons are healthy and positive. Some of them are less so.
Some of us look for the comfort, soothing, and physical pleasure that we aren’t getting from our relationships.
Unlike certain people, food is undemanding. It’s always there for us and it lives to give.
Overeating is often a welcome release in a life that is full of commitments, obligations, responsibilities, and demands from others.
Some of us try to protect ourselves by eating (or not-eating). Some of us “stuff” ourselves with food to help us “stuff” our emotions.
Eating can distract us from conflict or take the place of self-assertion and direct confrontation.
On the other hand, people overeat in not only stressful, but the happiest of situations.
You can easily fall into a trap of finding reasons to celebrate just so you can overeat and say "It's a special occasion, I can have this" or "I'm celebrating, it's worth having it".
But we needn’t call a psychiatrist every time we catch ourselves with our hands in a cookie jar. The source of our disordered eating isn’t always pathology. Sometimes it’s just a matter of habit.
The good news?
We can address our past hurts and unmet needs. We can change our habits.
If you are unsure what's the difference between physical and emotional hunger read this. When you understand the difference between those two, you will be able to control it better.
Then, try these 5 tips below and see if they help with your emotional eating.
1. Understand that food does not solve problems.
Having a tub of ice cream because you feel heart broken will not mend the heart.
Eating or drinking provides a temporary distraction and a dopamine (pleasure hormone) release but often leaves us feeling worse than before.
Dopamine's main goal is to make us pursue happiness, not to make us happy.
We often mistake the experience of wanting for a guarantee of happiness.
As humans, we find it nearly impossible to distinguish the promise of reward from whatever pleasure or pay off we are seeking.
The promise of reward is so powerful that we continue to pursue things that don't make us happy, and consume things that bring us more misery than satisfaction.
Having extra piece of chocolate because you think that, that 9th piece is finally going to hit the spot, or fill the hole that the 8th piece quite couldn't.
2. Work on finding non-food-related ways to deal with stress, and emotions in general.
Life is full of stress and struggles. It always will be. If you are hoping to wait for the time when life will be less stressful so you can get on with your diet, you will be waiting for a loooong time. There is always going to be hurdles and new challenges to tackle. That's the curse but also the beauty of life.
Some of the most effective strategies to relief stress are: exercising, praying, reading, listening to music, meditating, yoga, walking outside, spending time with friends.
Some of the least effective strategies are: shopping, gambling, smoking, drinking, eating, stuffing the Web, playing video games, watching tv for more than 2 hours.
3. Distract yourself.
When you start to feel an eating/drinking desire coming in: leave the kitchen, go for a walk, go upstairs, cuddle with your pet, call your friend, pick an item on your chores list and do it.
Put physical distance between yourself and the object of your desire.
4. Set a timer.
When that urge comes - set a 5 or 10 minute timer and wait. If the urge is still there, go for it. If it went away - right on. Even if you still cave in, you are more likely to eat/drink less than before, as your actions will be less automatic and more rational.
5. Try meditating.
Studies show that people who meditate have more self-control. Even 5-minute daily meditations seem to work very well to help people be more mindful when eating and drinking.
Have more questions on emotional eating or building new habits that can help you overcome it - let me help you.