The other night, we received some bad news and before I knew it, I was face first in guacamole and chips. 100% I was eating because I was disappointed and sad. Not because of hunger.
Many of us struggle with emotional eating. Emotional eating can occur with any emotion. When we are stressed and need to relax. Or it is when we are sad and a cupcake is the ONLY thing to cheer us up. Even when we want to celebrate something, and we “deserve” a treat for a good job.
The association with eating and emotion is a learned behavior. Often it starts when we are young. What do children get when they get a shot at the Doctor’s office? A lollipop as a reward and to cheer them up! The good news is that since emotional eating is a learned behavior, we can unlearn it.
Here are a few ways to start:
Step 1- As soon as you want to reach for food or drinks, ask yourself:
“Am I truly hungry because I haven’t eaten or am not hydrated?”
“Yes” Eat or drink a reasonable food. If anything sounds good- like an apple- that should mean you are truly hungry.
“No” and something specific sounds good like a bag of chips, it may be emotions.
Step 2- Reflect on how you are feeling and what the situation is.
Step 3- Name your emotion and be clear on how you are feeling.
Step 4- Soothe or reward yourself without food. Take a walk if stressed, call a friend to talk it out, or treat yourself to flowers as reward. Make a list of things to do instead of eating.
Go easy on yourself. If you find yourself tucked in with a pint of ice cream because something didn’t go your way, don’t beat yourself up, just try again the next time.