Have you ever entered ‘unsupervised child at a party’ mode when you’ve been sad, annoyed or stressed? What I mean by that is, have you ever over eaten as a way to deal with your feelings? Is emotional eating something you still tend to do? Emotional eating is something that I’ve struggled (and sometime still struggle!) with, and I know most of us, at one time or another have reached for the Tim Tams to chocolate coat those unhappy feelings. Let’s be honest, it works a treat – who doesn’t love a bit of comfort food! But it isn’t really a sustainable way to manage yourself and doesn’t comfort for long.
Over the years I’ve been working on strategies to stop emotional eating. It’s taken me years because a) I’m human and b) bad habits are BLOODY hard to completely break away from. I’ve definitely made huge improvements but I think I am always going to have to be mindful of it when I am stressed. I thought I would share some of the tips and strategies I draw on to manage and stop emotional eating, in case they help you too.
How to stop emotional eating
1. Bring awareness to the times you emotional eat
When, where, why.
Step 1 – move away:
Next time you are tempted to smother your emotions with food, try to remove yourself from the situation that caused the feelings (eg. if seeing a pile of papers you need to work on your desk caused high levels of stress, then try only keeping what you’re working on at present on your desk) and/or the environment that encourages it (ie. step away from the pantry).
Step 2 – Find an alternative:
When you’re not stressed, note what things make you feel relaxed and happy eg. stepping outside for some fresh air, saying a prayer of thanks, doing your nails, walking your dog etc. Or simply just put on some good tunes and take five minutes for a boogie (here are some tunes to get you going). Write your ideas on a list and refer to this next time you find yourself wanting to emotional eat – do one of these things instead. Trust me – distractions work.
An alternative at this point is to try meditation to manage your emotions. I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at practicing this regularly, but I find it very effective when I do! You can learn more about how to do this here.
Step 3 – PRACTICE:
Put it into practice. Immediately after the distraction, there will be a period of feeling uncomfortable and unsatisfied – even if you follow these tips… but just accept that. Take comfort in knowing that you’re on the road to getting rid of that feeling and that you are creating new, healthy habits. Just keep focusing on that thing you enjoy from your list. The desire to emotional eat will pass. Ride it out. Know you have the strength to say no. YOU’RE mind is the boss of your emotions, even if the emotions jump up and down about it 😉
Improving your awareness through mindful eating will support you in putting this into practice.
Step 4 – follow up:
Follow yourself up! You might want to flag this post to reflect on again later in the week and see if you can complete each step. You could even forward it to a friend who would also find this list helpful. Ask them to check in with you to see how you are progressing with your awareness of emotional eating or how your relaxation list is going. When we do life together and build each other up, it gives amazing results.