Often, our motivations for eating a meal or snacking on a particular food have very little to do with hunger or nutritional needs.
We may turn to food when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or bored. We may eat to celebrate or to cope with sadness or disappointment.
This is what’s known as emotional eating, and it can easily lead to an eating disorder, excessive weight gain, and all sorts of other health consequences that come with overeating or disordered eating.
“Am I Actually Hungry?”
Sometimes a small bit of self-awareness is all it takes to change your behavior.
The next time you find yourself reaching for a snack or heading to the fridge, take a moment to ask yourself:
“Am I actually hungry?”
“Why do I want to eat this particular food?”
“How will I feel after I eat it?”
Addressing these questions can help you to understand your true motivations for eating. If you’re eating for emotional reasons, you may be able to find a healthier way to cope with your feelings that don’t involve food.
Create a Food Journal
In addition to expanding awareness of your motivations before eating, it can also be helpful to reflect on your experience after the fact.
A food journal is a great way to do this. Write down what you ate and when you ate it. You can also note how you felt before and after eating, as well as any thoughts or emotions that were running through your mind at the time.
Over time, you may start to see patterns emerge. Noticing these patterns can help you to avoid certain triggers and situations that may lead to emotional eating.
Substitutions and Harm Reduction
If you’re struggling to eliminate emotional eating from your life, focus on harm reduction.
This means making substitutions and choices that will minimize the negative consequences of your behavior.
For example, instead of eating ice cream when you’re feeling stressed, choose a healthier alternative, like frozen yogurt or a fruit smoothie. Instead of snacking on chips and cookies when you’re bored, eat some fruit or nuts, or chew a piece of gum.
This begins with your shopping at the grocery store. Keep the unhealthy temptations out of your home. Make sure your pantry and fridge are well-stocked with healthy, nutritious options that you can turn to when you feel the emotional urge to eat.
Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Stress is a huge trigger for emotional eating.
It’s essential to find ways to relax and reduce stress in your life. This may include yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, aromatherapy, and spending time in nature. You can also try walking, lifting weights, or doing some form of physical activity.
If you can find ways to reduce stress and prepare yourself with healthful tools and techniques for coping with stress, you’ll be less likely to turn to unhealthy food when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Talk To A Professional
If you’re struggling with emotional eating, don’t hesitate to contact someone for help. You don’t have to deal with it on your own.
A therapist or doctor can help you to understand your triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms. They can also provide support and guidance as you work to make changes in your life.
Don’t underestimate the potential harm of emotional eating. It’s a real problem that can have serious consequences for your health. But with the right help and support, you can improve your relationship with food and discover a healthier, happier way of life.