9 Commandments to Effectively Handle Emotional Eating – to Go from i-Crave to i-Understand

1. IDENTIFY YOUR HUNGER

Is your hunger physical or emotional? (Refer to the comparative chart on the previous post to determine if your hunger is based the physical need to eat, or emotional need to eat.)

If you ate a few hours ago and don’t have a rumbling stomach, you may not be “truly” hungry. Give it 5 minutes and see if the cravings are present yet.

Also –

  • When having a meal stay away from all distractions. Switch off your tv, you cell phones. This will help you put your complete focus on the food in front of you. Now with every morsel of food – try and involve all your five senses; see the food in front of you – the colour, the variety; smell the aroma of food, feel the texture in your fingers, taste the various flavors and finally enjoy the silence of your meal. This will make you more attentive towards your food and help you get in touch with your real hunger signals.
  • To help determine if your hunger is physical or emotional, try asking yourself questions like “When was the last time I ate?” “Am I suddenly hungry or I have been hungry for a while now?” “Do I really need to eat this specific food that I am craving for, or can I substitute it for something else?”
  • Create healthy alternatives to eating. Whether it’s a walk in the park or curling up with a good book or talking to your friend or even playing with your pet – planning other activities will help you relax and avoid binge eating.

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2. IDENTIFY YOUR EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS

Emotional eaters must become aware of their reasons for wanting to eat.

A long drawn but a great way to be more aware of your emotions surrounding food is to keep a journal and record how you feel before you eat and after you eat. Write down what you eat, how much you eat (portion sizes), when you eat, how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are (on a scale of 0-10). Over time, you may see patterns emerge that reveal emotionally driven eating patterns and you will see your triggers that you need to avoid.

Top 6 Emotional Eating Triggers

  • Stress and Anxiety –Oh God! I am so nervous and edgy. Munching on the bag of chips or a tub of ice cream makes me cope with it better.”
  • Loneliness – “I am alone, I don’t know what to do or I am lonely and sad – let me just switch on the TV, watch a movie and order in a pizza”
  • Anger –I am so angry with XYZ, and what makes me more angrier is that I can’t tell XYZ how angry I feel – so let me just munch on anything I can lay my hands on”
  • PMS – “where is that CHOCOLATE? I need it NOW!”
  • Sadness and Depression – “I am feeling so low – only a good dessert would make me happy”
  • BOREDOM“I am bored and I have nothing to do, let me what is there in the fridge or the pantry or the kitchen”

3. AVOID KEEPING YOUR SNACKY-MUNCHY FOODS AROUND

  • Avoid keeping your comfort foods at home. Give yourself special days that you allow yourself to have “treat” foods available, and only in MODERATION
  • If you are planning on food shopping and are also feeling hungry or low, postpone the trip for a few hours so that these feelings don’t influence your food choices at the store.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time! Knowing what you plan to eat ahead of time, will make you look forward to every meal, as you know exactly what your next meal would be and will make it less likely that you will opt for an unhealthy option, even after a stressful day.
  • Eat every 2 – 2 ½ hours. Eating frequently and in small portions throughout the day will help to keep your blood sugar stabilized, keep your energy and mood up, and prevent cravings for sugary or fatty foods.

4. EAT A BALANCED DIET

  • If you are not eating enough in your normal meals – for the fear of getting fat, you may not be getting enough calories to meet your energy needs for the day and that may make you more likely to give into emotional eating. So try to eat at regular times and never skip breakfast. Include foods from the basic food groups in your meals (carbs, proteins and fats). Avoiding or reducing any of the food groups – leads to a lot binge eating. Get your portions and proportions of these correct. When you eat your basic food well, you are more likely to feel full longer.

5. EXERCISE  

Participate in regular physical activity. Be active for a minimum of 40 minutes for 5 days a week. Go for a bike ride, run or even a swim. Every little bit counts!

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(Image Courtesy – http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/img-thing?.out=jpg&size=l&tid=55003566)

6. GET ADEQUATE REST

Your mood is more manageable and your body can more effectively handle stress when it is fit and well rested. You can also do relaxation exercises such as imagery and guided visualization, deep breathing and meditation. Try tai chi or yoga.

  • Get enough sleep. If you do not sleep well when you are stressed, it may have an impact on your weight loss efforts, and often will cause fatigue leading to emotional eating.
  • Develop a ritual to help prepare you for sleep, and try going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation are all great ways to ease emotional stress, and to help you fall asleep more easily.

7. DEAL WITH YOUR STRESS

Since lack of emotional support is directly linked to the tendency to binge-eat, it is important that you build your own reliable support system. This could mean talking with a counsellor, or a friend or starting a healthy weight loss program.

  • If you have difficulty expressing your emotions verbally, try getting them out on paper. Maintain a journal or write a letter to even to yourself writing in detail about how you feel. Avoid judging or critically analyzing your own feelings. Acceptance of what you feel and where you are helps
  • Be sure to schedule time to spend with your friends or loved ones or family works wonders. Building relationships doesn’t happen overnight, so make spending time with those you care about a priority.
  • Make yourself your No.1 Priority. This is not about being selfish. It is about SELF – LOVE.

8. LEARN TO COPE WITH CRAVINGS

We all get food cravings, and often we all give into them. It is how we deal with these – is actually what will make or break our dream body efforts.

In essence, we subconsciously desire food that might bring on a specific feeling like a sugar rush or comfort. These “comfort foods” may have more to do with emotional security than a desire for food.

SO, THEN WHAT TO DO? TIP – The key to dealing with any food craving is to select times that you will give into them. If you deny your cravings all the time, you will only drive yourself to binge and eat more of what you crave once you do indulge. Select a day once every 2 weeks or once every month – where you eat the food you love! Be honest with yourself, and understand that having a treat does not mean having an entire day devoted to poor food choices.

9. COMPLETE WELLNESS OUTLOOK

It is important to remember that we eat to nourish our bodies and not for comfort. Look at food as nutrients that fuel your body. Every vitamin, mineral or nutrient that you put into your body helps to maintain your youth, vitality appearance, energy, fitness and health. Combine your food with exercise and a happy spirit, and you’re on your way to living happy, eating guilt free yet MINDFULLY!

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