Comfort eating coping strategies

Comfort eating coping strategies

Emotional eating is the tendency to eat in times of happiness, stress, anxiety, anger, or sadness. Emotional eating is a huge barrier to weight loss by adding many unnecessary calories to the diet and creating a psychological and physiological reliance on food for emotional coping. Here are my five top strategies to conquering emotional eating once and for all.

Understand why

The first step in overcoming emotional eating is to get a clearer understanding of when it happens. Keeping a diet journal and make a note of your mood each time you eat. This will allow you to identify episodes of emotional eating. Figure out how often you eat when in bad moods, what time of day, which days of the week, and which foods (keep these foods out of the house!). This will give you insight into your patterns and help you know when to utilise the following strategies.

Don’t Empower Your Vices

By eating during a negative emotion, you are giving food a new power beyond just meeting your nutritional needs. Food becomes a coping strategy, making your desire for it intensify. You begin to believe that you need food to get through bad feelings. Worse yet, studies show that eating high-sugar foods can affect activity in the parts of your brain that manage stress, which will further reinforce your reliance on eating in response to stress. If you feel that you can’t resist eating in response to a bad mood, consider reaching for raw fruit or vegetables since these foods are unlikely to have that effect on your brain.

Take 5

Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realise what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

All you have to do is put off eating for five minutes, or if five minutes seems unmanageable, start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait. While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.

Healthy Coping

The key is to find ways to cope with negative feelings that do not cause more problems. Eating causes more problems, and so does drinking, sleeping too much, and getting lost in TV for hours at a time. Exercise and talking with a supportive friend are good examples of healthy coping. When considering a new coping strategy, ask yourself: “Will doing this make me feel better or worse right now?” and “Will doing this make me feel better or worse tomorrow?” If you can say “better” to both questions, it is probably a healthy coping strategy. There is no sense in feeling better in the moment if it costs you tomorrow.

Reward yourself

When you succeed in not giving into a craving reward yourself with something unrelated to food. This doesn’t have to be huge and could be as simple as reading a magazine, taking time out to paint your nails or putting some money aside for a new outfit for when you reach your goal. Share your successes and post on the Facebook group, its there to help you in times when you cant accomplish it alone.

Emotional hunger vs. Physical hunger

  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly
  • Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly
  • Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods
  • Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied with a full stomach
  • Emotional eating triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame
  • Physical hunger comes on gradually
  • Physical hunger can wait
  • Physical hunger is open to options–lots of things sound good
  • Physical hunger stops when you’re full
  • Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself

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