We are all guilty of reaching for that chocolate bar when we’re feeling a bit down. Bridget Jones famously devoured an entire tub of ice-cream when she was having men problems! But as we all know, we usually end up feeling a lot worse after our eating binge.
Emotional eating is a natural response for most people. As humans, we don’t like feeling down or out of control of our emotions, so eating food which gives us that temporary high, can be a solution for many people – especially those who struggle with their weight. Unfortunately ’emotional eating’ can turn into a bad habit or behaviour and end up being destructive both physically and psychologically.
There are many reasons why people can turn to eating when they are not feeling happy with themselves:
If we take a look at all of these negative emotions, we can see a pattern. All of these emotions which trigger unnecessary eating are the same emotions we feel after we have eaten that whole block of chocolate. When we are feeling these emotions our thoughts are not in a good state of mind. By eating food which makes us feel good, it is inadvertently rewarding these bad eating behaviors. It is creating a habit that each time you are feeling low, your brain has conditioned itself to expect a reward of a big slice of cheesecake.
Bad habits are just bad behaviours and like any bad habit, you have the power and choice to stop it. The way to do this is to instill and stick to new habits. Such as:
Drink water: Whenever you are feeling ’emotional’ and that you need to eat something, have a big drink of cold water. Most of the time when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty and need hydration. Drinking water will also help your brain oxidize which will give you more clarity in your thoughts.
Create a routine and stick to it: Set yourself definitive times for your breakfast, lunch and dinner and stick to them. Even if it starts out as reminders on your phone. For your morning and afternoon tea breaks, have a hot drink (even if it’s just hot water with lemon) and a small snack such as nuts or fruit.
Stay away from the sweet stuff: We’re not saying to cut out of the naughty treats altogether, but just make your sweet sugary delights your rewards rather than your staple diet. Lots of sugar will dehydrate you and make you feel hungry and un-satisfied. Keep the sugar to a minimum when you’re feeling down and reward yourself occasionally when you’re feeling happy so your brain starts to associate eating with feeling good. You will find by reducing sugar your mood will improve and those ‘down days’ will start to decrease. If you get a sugar craving, grab an apple – they are the best natural sweeteners around!
Keep everything in proportion: Having a balanced diet and eating the correct portion sizes will retrain your brain both visually and physically. Understanding exactly how much food you actually need as opposed to want, is the best way to break the habit of over-eating and unnecessary eating. If just by looking at your meal you can understand how much you need, your brain will begin to automatically distance itself from over-eating. Chewing your food properly and waiting for ten minutes after you’ve finished your plate will also assist your digestive system. This is helping train you towards hunger satiety – the state of feeling full rather than hungry.
Emotional eating has become a big health problem in the western culture with fast food and sugar fixes available at our finger tips. Health issues directly related to a poor diet include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
As the patient becomes move anxious or worried about their weight and health, they can often turn to the thing which is causing the problem – over-eating.
There is hope! As with breaking any bad habit, it takes discipline and a need to want to have a healthier life and the only person that can do that is you.