Have you heard of the term ’emotional eating’? I’m sure we all have experienced this during our life. You know the feeling: it is around 3pm and you crave something sweet to have with your afternoon coffee or tea. Watching TV after dinner and you just have to have those snacks while indulging in your favourite TV show. You feel a bit down and so make some comfort food to pick up your mood.
How often do you feel this way? You may be emotional eating more than you realise. Read the questions below and if you answer ‘Yes’ to any you may be Emotional Eating.
Are you an emotional eater?
- Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
- Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
- Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
- Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
In 2013 an American Psychological Association survey found that 38% or respondents had overeaten or eaten unhealthy food options in the last month because they were feeling stressed.
Growing up we may have formed emotional associations with food if it was used as a reward or treat. Usually it was also unhealthy food such as lollies or sweets.
The 3 ‘D’s to overcoming Emotional Eating
Diarise what you eat, drink and your mood
Start and food and mood diary. I’ve attached a copy HERE if you would like to download a diary to record what you are eating and drinking over the period of a week. It is surprising what feelings and emotions can trigger and affect our eating patterns.
It isn’t just when we are feel down that we turn to food. We also use food as a reward and celebration when there are other alternatives apart from food to reward ourselves for achieving our goals.
By keeping a diary and also how we felt at the time we were eating can show us when we are vulnerable to Emotional Eating and provides us with information and habits which we can work on changing.
A diary will also show us the type of food we are eating
By planning our meals in advance and only shopping for those ingredients we are less likely to snack on the wrong types of food.
I’ve written before about how I believe ‘Diet is a Dirty Word’. We associate dieting with strict eating regimes and follow the many fad diets on offer just to find a quick fix. This won’t help. Quick fixes are just that – they work for a short time and then we fall back into our previous eating habits and the weight comes back on.
Forget dieting and embrace healthy eating for life.
That means avoiding processed foods as much as possible and eat whole foods with the emphasis on vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, fish and chicken and less red meat.
If we diet we restrict ourselves and then can fall off the wagon at the first sign of what we believe is hunger or we get demotivated and binge on food.
Nourish your body with nutritious food and don’t deprive it. It isn’t about starving yourself but eating healthy options which satisfy hunger.
Boredom, mindlessly watching TV and not thinking about what you are snacking on all adds to the emotional eating cycle.
Substitute a healthier behaviour instead of eating when you aren’t hungry. Call a friend, go for a walk, change the time you normally eat, taking up a hobby.
I recently read Holistic Self-Care ‘A’ is for Ask by Janet Mary Cobb. In her article she suggests we should ask our bodies what is doable. And poses the following questions in regards to eating.
- Why are you craving this food?
- How is this food making you feel?
- Is this food energizing you? Which foods give you energy?
- Are really hungry?
So next time you reach for the snacks PAUSE and ask yourself these questions.