Many of us know that uncontrollable urge to eat when we’re not actually hungry. The simple reason is that food can bring us comfort, at least in the short term. As a result, we often turn to food in response to emotions rather than hunger. In fact, studies suggest that over 75% of overeating is emotional. Whether it’s just boredom, or depression or stress, our emotions can cause us to consume large amounts of food, often impacting badly on our weight loss goals.
The occasional binge is okay, but if emotional eating is becoming a problem for you, there are a few strategies you can use to help curb your overeating habits. Identifying what triggers your eating and substituting more positive techniques to manage your emotions is a good place to start.
Finding your triggers
There are many emotions that commonly lead to overeating. Next time you feel the urge to eat, take a second to think. Are you really hungry, or are you feeling something else? Many people turn to food when they are feeling:
Keeping a food diary can help you to figure out your patterns of emotional eating. If there is a common trigger, make note of it, and try to recognize it next time you feel the urge to binge.
When a binge comes on
You’re feeling tired and stressed, and reach for the potato chips. But try to stop for a moment and think. Is eating really going to make you feel better? More likely, you’ll just feel full and sick, and guilty for not sticking to your weight loss plan. So it’s important to try to develop more effective ways to bring comfort when emotional triggers kick in.
Distract yourself. Before you take that first bite, do something to take your mind off eating. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Turn on the news. Find something to distract you for a few minutes, and most of the time the urge to eat will disappear.
Find comfort elsewhere. Do something that makes you feel good. Take a warm bath, or paint your nails. Even reading a book or watching your favorite TV show can help you to relax and feel better.
Reconsider your choice. If you can’t stop yourself from eating, try choosing a healthier option. Tomato soup or a cup of tea might bring comfort, with less disastrous effects on your daily calorie limit.
If all else fails, try drinking water before you eat. Often it will reduce the urge to eat, and if not, it will make you feel full more quickly.
Making a change
If you do slip up and respond to your emotions by eating, forgive yourself. All the guilt and self-loathing we often feel after a binge only increases our negative feelings, which can easily lock us in a vicious cycle. The important thing is to recognize why you have overeaten and make a conscious commitment to change.