3 Quick Steps to Overcome Emotional Eating | Mindset
Food is what nourishes the body, mind, and soul. It isn’t just fuel. It plays a huge role in the physical, social, and emotional aspects of one’s being.
As part of one’s emotional health, food is used for connection with other humans, for comfort when the weather is too hot or too cold, and for celebration for another milestone in one’s life.
However, food’s role in human’s emotional health has been used as a means of escape from problems. Many people resort to emotional eating. This is the reason why many people trying to make healthy lifestyle changes have difficulties in their efforts. They face one of the biggest challenges of them all: emotional eating.
Do you also find yourself falling into the trap of emotional eating? I can assure you that you are not alone! If so, then this article is for you!
Why We Overeat
There are heaps of reasons why you feel there’s a need to overeat when you’re emotionally down. Cass Dunn, clinical psychologist and life coach, provides two prominent reasons why many people suffer from emotional eating.
One, according to brain science, your brain feels good whenever you eat highly processed and sugary foods. Such types of food hit the reward centre of the brain. This triggers the release of dopamine, which helps control the pleasure and reward centers of the brain.
Dopamine also helps regulate emotional responses and movement. This means that whenever you eat highly processed and sugary foods, dopamine is released, which enables you to “see” the reward and take action towards it.
In other words, because you feel good after eating highly processed and sugary foods, you will automatically crave for more, you will want more of it. Dopamine receptors in your brain will want to get the same effect, over and over again.
Similarly, alcohol and drugs has the same effect on the human brain. This means that yes, you can become addicted to sugar and other highly processed foods.
Unfortunately, the long-term damage that this has on you is that it enables you to gain unhealthy weight, which can lead to a number unwanted of health problems. It can also have a negative effect on your attempts to eat healthily.
Another reason why many people suffer from emotional eating is because of habits, behaviours, or activities learned as a child. For example, if you were offered food as a reward or treat when you were little, you have a higher chance of eating emotionally as an adult, especially when you’re upset or stressed.
Steps to Overcome Emotional Eating
If you need to break the habit or get back on track with your weight loss effort, which is being undone by emotional eating, you can do a few things to get things under control. Here are 3 quick and easy steps to overcome emotional eating:
Write it Down
The first step to overcome emotional eating is to keep a food and mood diary. Write down what triggers you to emotionally eat – what mood you’re in when you’re emotionally eating and what types of food you do eat when you’re in a particular mood.
Include your emotions as you eat and what you’re feeling afterwards. Observe whether you’re truly hungry while eating, or you’re just eating because you’re upset or stressed.
Writing down your moods while you’re eating can help you understand your eating patterns. This will help identify situations that you can avoid, which will also help you to prevent emotionally eating.
More importantly, according to Dunn, this will help you determine the emotional needs that you’re attempting to address with eating. Next time you feel the same emotional need, you can tell yourself that you don’t have to eat whenever you feel the same way.
Think Before You Eat
According to a 2015 study, acting rashly, impulsively, or eating without thinking first, leads to greater chance of emotional overeating. Assistant professor of psychology at Ohio University, Sarah Racine, and lead researcher on the study said that rash actions done while one was experiencing negative emotions can lead to overeating and feeling out of control.
Mindless eating therefore, is a huge problem that eventually leads to emotional overeating. Mindfulness should be observed, but how?
According to Dunn, before you eat, take a pause and listen to your body. Is it really hungry or are you just fulfilling an emotional need? Is your mind “present” or is it wandering aimlessly?
Do Something Else
Finally, you can do something about your emotional state. Be active with something else. One of the best ways to avoid emotional eating is by taking a rest. In fact, sleep deprivation has a negative effect on your appetite. This is according to a 2016 study published in the scientific journal, Sleep.
The research revealed that sleep loss prompts you to “munch” at inconvenient times such as late afternoon just after snack time or early evening when it’s almost dinner time.
Aside from sleeping, you can think of many other ways and other activities that can keep your mind from thinking about eating. You can take a walk, call a friend, play with a pet, listen to positive music, meditate, read, or anything else that is a healthy distraction from eating.
Doing something different other than eating when you’re in an emotional state trains the brain to associate such activities with positive feelings instead.
Before You Do These Steps
Remember, you don’t have to deprive yourself. We all want something good to eat after a hard day’s work. It’s perfectly fine for an occasional treat. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. Eat a chocolate and move on.
By Sian Skinner Smith
Aussie Supps Nutrition Hub Head Nutritionist