Some Tips to Stop Emotional Overeating
It’s a well-known reality that thirst can sometimes feel to our bodies like hunger; this is why it’s recommended that those trying to cut calories drink a glass of water before eating to see if that satisfies the craving. In a similar vein, we can feel hunger—or we can simply want to engage in the act of eating—when the need isn’t related to the fullness of our stomachs at all.
If you’re feeling stressed, drained, empty, or any number of other strong emotions, the temptation can be to make it feel better by indulging in an extra plate of nachos or a late-night chocolate chip cookie binge.
If you regularly find yourself eating even after you feel full, rewarding or soothing yourself with food, turning to food when you don’t feel you can talk to anyone, or simply feeling powerless over your own reaction to food, you may very well be an emotional eater.
The good news is, there are several ways you can break free of that pattern and reestablish a healthy relationship with food.
Realize the Cause
Since many different factors can impact the way we interact with food, it can be helpful to figure out what’s triggering your times of overeating. Possible contributing factors include biology, tuning out while eating, a belief (conscious or otherwise) in the therapeutic nature of food, convenience, entertainment, or a general feeling of happiness and good memories upon consuming certain foods, according to psychologist Susan Albers in “Tips to Stop Emotional Eating” on the Dr. Oz website. If you’re having trouble pinpointing the exact reason behind your sessions of overeating, keeping a food diary can help. Try to record not only what types of food you’re eating but also the way you feel before and after eating.
Deal With Depression and/or Loneliness
When you feel depressed or lonely, it’s easy to turn to food as a temporary fix. Unfortunately, overeating not only fails to address the true underlying problem but it can also make you feel worse in the long run. It’s best, of course, to handle serious matters such as depression with long-term solutions, such a therapy, but there are also short-term tactics you can use to help boost your spirits and stave off feelings of isolation.
This can be a simple as calling a good friend, taking a walk in the park to see children playing, spending time with pets, or getting out a photo album or other keepsake that brings up pleasant memories.
The most important thing to realize is that you’re not alone. There are people out there who want to help you. Reaching out can be tough for a depressed person, hell, it can be tough for anyone, but it’s a crucial step to getting better. Depression is one of those things that can exist without any rhyme or reason, you may not even realize the reasons for your depression, let alone understand them. But you have to remember that it’s better to seek help from friends or professionals than it is to self medicate with things like food or drugs.
Sometimes the problem doesn’t necessarily stem from a deep-seating emotional problem but from boredom. To figure out of ennui is triggering your desire to eat, engage in a different activity before you snack. This could mean reading a book, taking care of a few household chores, or breaking out a board game. You may find that once your attention is engaged in something pleasurable, the urge to eat passes.
Another word of caution regarding distraction: make sure you aren’t unduly preoccupied when eating. It’s easy to eat past the point of hunger when you’re distracted.
The best distraction you can possibly have to overcome your emotions is exercise and fitness. Join a gym, or a yoga studio or a dance studio, run a marathon, etc. Anything that will keep you physically active is going to help you tremendously in the long run. Not to mention you’ll meet new people!
No More Anxious Eating
Anxiety is another common emotional trigger of overeating. Consider taking a two-pronged approach if anxiety seems to be a problem for you. Stop it before it starts by making sure to a get a full night’s sleep, prioritizing your own health with a sensible diet and hydration, and taking breaks to simply relax throughout the day. Try meditation, jogging, or sitting somewhere comfortable and listening to soothing music.