Food is essential to our survival. We need it to fuel our movements, keep our brains healthy, and it is an excellent tool for socialising with friends. But food can start to be a problem when it stops serving its purpose.
Everyone gets stressed and worried at some point. How you deal with these emotions will depend on who you are as a person and the ways you've been taught to deal with them. For some, food becomes a comfort from these emotions.
But emotional and stress eating can become incredibly damaging to both your body and your mind. If this habit becomes frequent, you can see adverse health risks arising, like heart disease and weight gain, depreciating your fitness.
So how can you overcome emotional eating? Here are 6 tips to help you stay in control.
#1. Keep a food diary.
If you are facing seriously disordered eating, don't keep a food diary. It can increase the obsessive nature of some eating disorders and bring you more problems than it solves.
If, however, you've just noticed a turn towards emotional eating, keeping a food diary can be a great way to gather some information about your eating habits.
Track when and where you eat everything in a day. If you notice a strong emotion while eating, note that down. By doing this, you'll be able to see patterns and habits you might have. Then, you'll be better equipped to break these habits.
#2. Question yourself before eating.
When you reach for food in the day, ask yourself: why? Why are you going to get a snack at three p.m.? By stopping and thinking, you'll be able to work out if you are hungry or if your emotions are ruling your desire for food.
Sometimes we reach for food when we are bored, stressed, or sad for something to do. If you identify this as the reason, you can offer yourself a different distraction, like going for a walk, which will be much healthier for you.
Sometimes, if you aren't sure what's made you reach for food, have a drink of water. It's often the case that your body tells you it's dehydrated, and you mistake it for hunger.
#3. Set up a strong support system.
Ensure you have a sound support system. This could be family and friends who can help you stay healthy. Alternatively, seek a professional to assist in the form of a therapist or counsellor. Finding the root of emotional problems can remove the need for food as comfort.
Hiring an online coach is also a great way to ensure you've always got someone on your side and who's able to keep you accountable.
#4. Keep unhealthy snacks out of your home.
When you do your food shop, don't buy unhealthy snacks like chocolate and crisps. This way, if you feel the need to snack, you won't have access to foods that aren't good for you. Instead, you will reach for fruits and vegetables. Some healthy foods will give you the comfort of unhealthy foods, like plain popcorn.
Ensure that you don't ever do your food shop when you are hungry or in a bad mood, as your emotions will rule your shopping, not your head. If you do this, you might end up with unhealthy snacks in the house, negatively affecting you for the rest of the week.
#5. Exercise can help you feel better.
Exercise generates endorphin production in your body. These little chemicals calm your brain down and so can remove any negative feeling you may possess. When you feel the need to emotional eat, try going for a run or doing a quick workout.
Once the endorphins are in your body, you won't feel the intense emotions that controlled you earlier, so the need to stress eat will be removed.
#6. Be patient with yourself.
Stress and emotional eating are challenging to overcome because they become a habit. Habits, no matter what they are, are difficult to break. It is very likely that at some point, you will break your plans to overcome emotional eating. When this happens, you need to continue with your goals, not give up.
Be kind to yourself, and accept that you are going to make mistakes. Overcoming emotional eating is a long process but worth it in the end. As long as you stick by your plans, you can kick this habit once and for all.
The most important takeaway is that you don't have to do it alone. Explain to your social circle what you're feeling and how your loved ones can help you, and believe me that they will. However, if you think that you need expert help to tackle some underlying issues, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your life and future health depend on it.
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