We live in a world where we experience complex emotions in our every day lives. We deal with these in different ways. Unfortunately for me, I resort to food. I eat when I am sad, happy, when I am watching TV and when I am going through PMS. My biggest weakness though, is that I eat when I am bored.
I am sure that I am not alone in this. Some study shows that around 75 % of the reasons why we eat are emotional…Gasp!
We have been conditioned to connect certain feelings to food. Even our reward systems are so food-focused.
“I went to the gym 4 times this week…let me have a burger on my rest day”
“My friends are all doing stuff with their boyfriends this Friday…I guess I’ll stay home and eat a tub of ice cream”
“This work is tedious and I’m bored…let me eat something, it’s lunch time anyway”
The last one is an excuse that I am guilty of using every day. I am not one to keep track of my calorie intake, but I saw a big difference on the scale. I gained about 10 kg (22 pounds) since graduation. That is when I realized that I needed a solution.
The key to doing this was to first recognize the cause for this weight gain. I mean, I went to the gym, took the stairs every chance I got…so where was I going wrong? The problem was that I was a victim of emotional eating. I had so many excuses to eat and I did not let myself get hungry.
Okay, so I will show you the habits I developed to stop emotional eating and other tips that you can try out for yourself.
How I Did It
I have implemented a few things that have helped to reduce emotional eating. Here they are:
1. Find The Cause
As you begin this journey, it is important for you determine the trigger for your emotional eating. This way, you will be more effective in reducing it. As I have already said, I eat a lot to feel happy and satisfied. And my biggest problem was that I would eat simply because I was bored.
Now that I know that this is the trigger for my emotional eating, I look out for the signs before eating or snacking. I always ask myself: “Why do you want to eat?”, if the answer is not good enough, I avoid eating. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is a good habit that you can benefit from.
Once you start looking for your trigger, you might find that your emotional eating is caused by stress, sadness, loneliness or even excitement. This will hep you curb this habit.
2. Fuel your Body the Right Way
Although I would love to be the kind of person who sticks to only 3 meals per day, I just can’t. I have realized that I am a grazer. I love to eat constantly throughout the day, and there is nothing much that I can do about it.
So to avoid the effects of so much eating, I have about 3 meals a day and about 2 snacks a day. I keep healthy snacks to ensure that I am fueling my body with the right foods. This has reduced my sugar intake from the unhealthy snacks that I used to have.
Instead of starving yourself (which is not good for you), if you need to eat, just do it. But eat right.
3. Be a Home Cook
I cannot stress this point enough. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, it is imperative that you be in control of what is in your food.
Cooking at home will ensure that the food you eat is as healthy as you make it. I know it is just so much easier to just order something, but this will set you off track. So cooking at home will prevent emotional eating in the form of take out.
It doesn’t have to be a challenge. You could try out simple, quick meals.
4. Shop Better
I have seriously benefited from making a shopping list and sticking to it for my grocery shopping. This will not only save you loads of cash, but it will ensure that you have the right food to eat healthily.
If you buy healthy food, you can plan your meals and snacks better. This will also reduce the number of times that you end up ordering something.
5. Eat for Energy
This rule means that you eat in accordance with the energy that you need.
So you would eat a nutritious breakfast and hearty lunch meal. This is essential because you need the most energy during the day when you are at school or work. Eating well during the day will ensure that you can perform all of your tasks and your brain functions properly.
But in the evening, you no longer need as much energy as you did. So it is better to have a lighter meal at dinner.
6. Drink Water
Drinking water is all round important for your health anyway. But it is especially beneficial in reducing emotional eating.
I have this really bad habit of always needing to feel full. It is such a satisfying feeling. So even though I may have had enough to eat, I continue eating until I am full…it makes me real happy.
So drinking water before a meal will help me eat less food. Which is just the right amount of food that I need. However, I am honestly not a big fan of plain water, so I drink lemon water instead. It helps me drink more water, plus it has other health benefits. You could always drop in any other fruit that you prefer to help you drink more water.
7. Set a Goal
I love setting goals because it keeps me focused. I decided to stop emotional eating so that I could reduce the weight that I have gained. (It is still pending)
But having this goal at the back of mind helps me avoid eating when I don’t need to. You could have any other goal. Maybe you want to become fitter, or just want to feel good about yourself without eating. Whatever the goal, it will make it easier to reduce emotional eating.
Other Ways to Do It
If my methods of reducing emotional eating are not for you, here are other ways to do it.
8. Reduce Stress
If you find that you eat more because of stress, you could try different things to reduce stress. So this could be a new hobby, relaxing exercises, jogging or other activities that could keep your stress levels low.
9. Change your Reward System
If you are currently eating because it is a reward for something, try changing that. You could reward yourself with something else. For example, a new bag. Alternatively, you could reward yourself less frequently. Either way, you lessen the chances of emotional eating.
10. Ditch Unhealthy Food
If you are a person who cannot moderate their eating themselves, ditch the unhealthy food. Instead of keeping the snacks or chocolate that is your biggest weakness, replace them with a healthier option. In fact, you could remove them from your shopping list all together.
11. Keep It Simple
If you decide to get into some strict diet just as you’re starting on this journey, you’re more likely to burnout. So whatever you decide to do to reduce emotional eating, make sure that it is easy enough for you so that you can do it continuously.
What other ways do you use to control emotional eating and stay healthy? Which tips have you tried out from this list? Let me know in the comments below.