Emotional eating is an eating habit that unfortunately receives too little attention in the slimming world. Emotional eating is indicated by eating behavior that you use to comfort yourself or to suppress boredom or other negative emotions. In this article, I explain what emotional eating is and how you recognize it and I give you 4 tips to help you do something about it yourself.
How does emotional eating occur?
A usual reaction to stress is that you do not feel like eating. Some don’t get a bite down their throat. This is very functional from an evolutionary point of view in the short term. Imagine going to the zoo standing face to face with a lion. It is handy that you do not have a rattling hunger that distracts you from the danger.
But with emotional eaters, stress has the opposite effect. An emotional eater gets a lot of appetites when he or she becomes emotional. A possible explanation for this is that someone in their youth has learned to comfort themselves with food when they have unpleasant feelings and therefore has not learned how to deal with feelings in a different way.
What can you do about it?
Fortunately, it is possible to do something about your emotional eating behavior yourself. Below are four useful tips.
Note: not all tips will be equally useful to you. It is important to investigate what works for you.
Tip 1: Keep a food diary
Usually, emotional eaters have less insight into what is happening in their body and they are less able to recognize what exactly they feel. As a result, emotional eaters often find it more difficult to find out which emotions can be a reason to start craving for food. To increase your self-insight, I recommend keeping a record of your eating habits for one week in a diary.
By doing this you can easily make a connection on the days that you suffer from emotional eating between which situations happened on such a day (or the days before) and the way in which you give meaning to these events.
Tip 2: Ensure adequate relaxation
Another cause that increases the risk of emotional eating is stress and imbalance. Women (with a family) in particular experience a lot of pressure and place high demands on themselves. They want to behave perfectly in different roles (mother, employee, partner) and on top of that, they also want a very slim figure. They often turn away during the day and have little time for relaxation. All these requirements that you set for yourself cost a lot of energy and can cause you to crave food even more.
To balance, it is important to relax sufficiently. The following questions will help you with this:
- What do you want from yourself? Which activities cost you energy and give you stress?
- How could you work on this? What can or cannot influence?
- With which activities could you relax? I recommend writing this for yourself and planning time for it. Specifically: When will you make time for it? When will you start?
Another important aspect is sleep. Are you sufficiently rested during the day?
If not: what can you do to improve your sleep?
Tip 3: Prepare yourself in advance for difficult moments
This tip can be confronting. You want to lose weight and probably not think of difficult moments. Nevertheless, I recommend that you prepare well. The moment you are not feeling well, it is much more difficult to imagine how to deal with a setback in a healthy, helping way. Not having a plan for such moments increases the chance of emotional eating considerably.
How do you behave when you feel stressed and you crave something delicious? Or how do you prepare for a setback? A good way is to formulate these intentions in the form of an if-then plan; “If situation X occurs I will do Y”.
Example: Suppose I feel stressed, I walk around a block instead of grabbing for snacks.
Other examples of a good alternative to emotional eating:
- call a friend
- read a book
- breathing exercises and mindfulness
Tip 4: Follow your results and reward yourself
In addition, I recommend mapping your results. You can do this easily by writing down your goals and writing down daily how things went.
Goal: If I get bored in the future, I’m not going to snack, but read a book.
If you have maintained this goal for a week, reward yourself with something fun. For example, buy a magazine or go to the cinema.