Many people turn to food to feel better. That’s because it works! For a short period of time, food gives comfort, as pleasure hormones are released when we eat. This makes emotional eating very habit-forming and hard to stop. Oprah calls food her ‘drug of choice.’ Many people feel their eating habits are out of control, or say that they are addicted to food.
Unlike other addictions, avoiding temptation altogether does not work. We need food to live and be well nourished. Common ‘hangover’ symptoms from emotional eating are bloating, physical discomfort, heartburn, weight gain, feeling isolated, ashamed, or numb. If you have diabetes, high blood glucose can be another symptom.
The first step in overcoming emotional eating is to recognize it. Next, try some new approaches to food and eating. Remember that you are not alone, and that change is a process. As you move forward, it is normal and natural to relapse back into old behaviors. The following strategies might help you.
Although it is not always easy to start an exercise program, activity can really help with emotional eating and many other things too! Remember to choose something you like to do. Start with a gentle, realistic plan. To keep on track and make the experience enjoyable, consider walking with an exercise partner or taking a class. Choose a time of day that will work for you. Since exercise also releases pleasure hormones, it can be great for conquering emotional eating issues.
One woman would eat all evening after a hard day’s work. When she gained insight into this problem, she decided to change her work habits. A two-hour break from her open door policy allowed her to get her own work done. She no longer felt the need to reward herself or ‘de-stress’ using food.
Stress is very common in our society. Sometimes it’s possible to get rid of the stressor, but let’s face it – often we must accept our jobs, our families and our friends as they are. If you can identify the source of your stress and change it, do it! You may need to rebalance your life so there is enough time, energy and enjoyment left for you. Consider ways to help reduce stress.
Plan ahead for regular meals. Those who eat breakfast and lunch tend to take in fewer calories over the day. They tend to make healthier food choices and are less inclined to overeat in the evening. Consider writing out a menu plan for the week. It takes less time than you think, and really helps you to eat more wisely. Shopping and meal preparation are much easier when you know what you are going to have that day.
Be sure your foods are satisfying and tasty as well as nourishing. Make time and take time for your meals – bring back the pleasure of eating. Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to tell you it is full, so slow down the pace of eating and enjoy!
Perfection is overrated. It is not humanly possible. Those with a tendency towards emotional eating are often sensitive by nature. Remember to be gentle with yourself. If you relapse, think about what you have learned from it. We learn much more from our mistakes than our successes. Remember that you are worthy and worth it!