By Laura Wright, CPT
We have probably all done this at one time or another, but it becomes a huge problem when it becomes a habit. The almost out of control feeling we have while emotional eating seems too difficult to conquer. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist, I am just a person who has done some emotional eating and these 5 steps, if implemented, would be helpful to control emotional eating.
5 Steps to End Emotional Eating
- Eat mindfully.
Don’t eat in front of any screen (whether TV or computer)! Pay attention to what you are eating and your emotions while you are eating it. Is that chocolate cake reminding you of a loved family member and making you want to eat the whole cake instead of just one slice? Maybe a rough situation that happened earlier in the day has made you feel that a little a treat would make you feel better and then you wind up eating the whole bag of Oreos. It could be just the opposite, maybe you had a great day and want to celebrate to congratulate yourself by overindulging on unhealthy food.
- Keep a record of when you are emotional eating.
Does it usually happen at work or in the evening? What is making you feel emotional? It will only take you a short period of time to discover a pattern to your eating based on your emotions. You will see certain situations that cause you to give in to emotional eating and learn how to prepare for them or how to avoid those situations.
- Examine your feelings before, during and after eating.
Here is a question: Were you really hungry or were you just eating to comfort yourself? Did it start out as a normal meal and then get out of control? What were your thoughts when it got out of control? How did you feel afterwards? Once again, you may start to see a pattern in certain situations or a pattern in your thinking about food that you need to change.
- Accept that you must deal with the feelings.
This one is really an extension of step 3. It is not enough to just identify what you are feeling, you must also learn to deal with those feelings. This step will take some work. Write down what feelings you may be using food to avoid. This is a tough step because you may come to the realization that you need some help in dealing with these feelings in a more appropriate way. You may realize that talking to friends or family members you trust is helpful for working out your feelings. You also could come to the conclusion that to really break the cycle of emotional eating, you need to have some help from a counselor or some other type of professional. Always remember you need to take the steps necessary for your needs.
- Find something you can do that will help you stop when you realize you are in the middle of an emotional eating overindulgence.
This does not have to be any big earth -shaking thing that you do. It could be as simple as counting to ten or taking a few deep breaths. Maybe go on a quick 5 minute walk or go pet your dogs. Anything that will make you stop for a minute and think about what you are doing will work. Look at what you wrote down in step 3 about your feelings after you overindulged.
These are just a few steps to help you along when you are emotional eating. If you realize that your overindulgence on food is related to some trauma that happened years ago, getting some professional help would be appropriate at that time. Emotional eating can be serious and lead to long term health problems. Be sure to take the time you need to take care of yourself emotionally and physically.
If you have any more tips that have worked for you, be sure to leave them in the comments!