By Carole Griggs, Ph.D (c)
"Instead of acknowledging my stress and sadness, I was stuffing my face with nachos and ice cream." Sound at all familiar? You are not alone in your desire to “fill up” emotional gaps with food. Social eating, childhood habits, mindless eating, self-sabotaging thoughts and the cycle of hunger and restriction are all common hooks and triggers to emotional eating that effect your overall health and well-being. Some research suggests that nearly 75% of overconsumption is directly related to some sort of emotional eating. Drawing attention and awareness to the reasons you are drawn to eat can play a big role in changing these habits and preventing self-sabotage.
- Track Intake. Keep a log. Write down the times you eat, what and how much you eat, and how you feel when eating. Tracking food and liquid intake is the first step to becoming aware of what you’re consuming and where the downfall might be taking place. This can also help really identify the most stressful times of the day and/or week, which can be the root of emotional eating.
- Practice Mindfulness. Tracking food and liquid intake can really bring awareness to the “why” you’re choosing to reach for food. Eliminating distractions and taking the time to chew or drink and really taste the food - turn off the TV, eat away from the computer, eat in a calm environment, and be mindful of your hunger and fullness signals while eating.
- Hunger and Fullness. Emotions are often felt in the gut, so shoveling food down our throats to push down, cover up and mask emotions is not all that uncommon. In doing this we usually disregard the hunger and fullness signals that the body registers and communicates. Discriminating between physical and emotional hunger is a huge step in breaking free from emotional eating. When your “gas tank” (stomach) is at about a 4 out of 10 on the hunger scale, you’ll be eating at a time when you are somewhat hungry, but not starving, preventing overindulgence. Over time it will become very natural to eat when comfortably hungry and stop when comfortably full.
- Notice Sabotaging Thoughts. We can’t control the thoughts that show up in our head, but we can choose to believe the thoughts that show up and act on or not act on it. If we believe the negative mind-chatter about our bodies, how it looks, what we “should or shouldn’t” eat, can or can’t, or negative expectations, we’re susceptible to eating in ways that contradict a healthy body and our overall well being. We have all had times in our lives where we have fallen prey to this, especially when we’re experiencing challenging times in our lives. Start to notice what patterns of thinking repeatedly show up that you sometimes take on. If you can consciously catch these thoughts before living them out, there’s opportunity for change to take place. Becoming aware of the destructive thoughts is always the first step.
- A Few Tips:
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Remove temptation and create an environment that supports the way of living you’d like to move into.
- Get Support – Work with a Nutritionist and communicate with friends and loved ones of your changes and ask for their support as you move along.
- Have a Plan – I am all about being set up for success. Have good food available in the fridge, prepare foods ahead of time, etc.
- Be Flexible – Having a plan provides a bit of structure and guidance to get you started. Once you get the hang of the new patterns, it’ll be much easier to have flexibility and loosen up with your new lifestyle.