By Jaylin Allen
People love to eat. All over the world, friends and families use food to socialize, celebrate, grieve and more. Eating is done routinely, similar to breathing, walking and blinking. Because of that, people can turn to food in order to satisfy emotional voids. Instead of dealing with their emotions head on, people use food to address their feelings.
Make no mistake; anyone can be an emotional eater. A whopping 82 percent of people have turned to food in times of crisis, joy, anger or sadness. Given that fact, what can one do in order to deal with their emotions in a healthier way? How can one create a diet based on what their body needs instead of their mood?
To get rid of poor eating habits and to create a healthy plan requires you to first acknowledge and admit you're an emotional eater. The next step is to consider why you eat when you're emotional and which emotions cause you to eat when you're not hungry.
A food journal is a great way to track of your moods and record how you feel when you eat. If you're not hungry, but you find yourself reaching for food, stop and ask yourself what emotions you are feeling in that exact moment. Then, record your emotion in your food journal, along with the type of food you ate, and date and time that you ate it.
Over the course of a month, you will see not only why you're eating, but what types of food you turn to.
Stress and Anger
Two big emotions that can lead to emotional eating are stress and anger. Both can cause elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Instead of turning to food to deal with your emotions, try some constructive ways to let off steam to reduce stress and anger.
- Remove yourself from the source of your anger or stress and go for a walk. During that time, figure out what's the best way for you to handle stress. If you need to address it head on, make a plan to do so that doesn't cause more stress or anxiety for you. If you decide you don't need to address it, give yourself permission to let it go and move on.
- Focus on your breathing. Deep breathing is an excellent natural tool to release stress and lower your blood pressure.
- Start to exercise. Not only will exercise distract you from what's bothering you, but there are many forms of exercise that give you a reason to take out some aggression in a positive way. Slam a medicine ball on the ground or push a heavy weight around—use your anger to make you stronger.
- Get out your iPod. Play your favorite music, chill out with it, or dance around. Create a playlist of songs that make you happy.
- Plan ahead. If you keep encountering the same scenario that stresses you out, take steps to manage that situation. If it's busy mornings that throw you off balance for the rest of the day, than plan ahead. Organize what you need in the mornings the night before. This will help start your day off on the right track.
Sadness and Loneliness
Other emotions that trigger emotional eating are sadness and loneliness–especially on weekends. If you spend a lot of time alone, it's easy to use snacks and food to comfort you. However, that's not the best way to deal with either sadness or loneliness. Again, exercise, listen to music, clean, or try other activities that get your mind off your emotions. If you can, call up some friends and make plans for the weekend or whenever you're available. Sometimes just knowing you have something to look forward to is enough to break the sad or lonely feeling.
- Get moving. Oh yes, here it is again. Exercise has been proven to releases endorphins which give you 'workout high'. It doesn't matter what you do, just get moving. Plus, getting out of the house to workout will help you avoid food temptations.
- Pet your cat or dog. Appreciate the affection and unconditional love you from your pets.
- Call a friend. Your friends and family love you; reach out and let them know how much you care about them too.
- Volunteer. It's always a great feeling when you've helped another person out.
Boredom is a huge factor for emotional eating. Just as you would handle the other emotions, you can do the same to fight the bulge against boredom. Be mindful of all the time you spend in front of the television. The more television you watch, the more likely you are to eat in front of it. That type of mindless eating can easily result in extra food consumption and, as a result, weight gain. Be mindful of what you eat, why you eat it, and how you eat.
- Focus on what you eat. Multitasking and mindless eating in front of the TV or computer can add up to a lot of calories. Shut off the TV or walk away from the computer when you eat. Enjoy the flavor of your food.
- Get a hobby. If you're not in the mood to be physical, keep your hands busy. Learn to sew, paint, or take photos. Write a list of things you've always wanted to try and make a plan to start doing at least one of them.
- Read for fun. It seems like there's never enough time to read, but try. Carry a book around with you to read whenever you're waiting on something. You'll be surprised at how often you'll find 10 to 15 minutes of downtime you can devote to reading.
- Play a game. In a world of 'Words With Friends' and 'Angrybirds', you can get so caught up in these fun and convenient games that hours fly by. So, why not have a game night? Invite your friends over for some good old fashioned board games.
In order to change your emotional eating behavior, you have to acknowledge it and make an effort to change your habits. Your habits may not change overnight, but keep at it. Follow these steps to help you get on the right path to a healthier lifestyle and curb your emotional eating habits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jaylin Allen is an expert Fitness Trainer in San Diego with over 12 years experience. Her company, Bootique Fitness, is known as the solution for women's fitness. They get their clients into great shape in record time through personal training, zumba, nutrition and women boot camps in San Diego. Check out her site bootiquefitness.com or call 619.602.8087.