By Dr. John Stiteler, PsyDN
Emotional eating is extremely common and can be defined as when a person eats to help cope with uncomfortable emotions. I have found that some of the most common emotions people try to numb with food include loneliness, boredom, anxiety, fear, and sadness. So, if you are one of the millions of Americans who find themselves emotionally eating, here are 6 tips to help reduce the habit.
#1. Tune into your body. This will help you distinguish between actual signs of physical hunger and those of emotional cravings. Being aware of emotional hunger is the first step of breaking the cycle.
#2. Identify any familiar emotional triggers. Keeping a simple journal of what you eat along with what you were feeling at the time can help you know why you may be eating even if you were not physically hungry.
#3. Create replacement behaviors. Some people find themselves emotionally eating at the same time each day (i.e., At night when alone watching TV). Be proactive and switch up the routine. For example, set an alarm to go for a walk, research potential travel destinations, take a class, go to the gym, etc. If your current routine isn’t working for you, make a change!
#4. Get rid of trigger foods. It is much easier to eliminate a temptation today than it is to reduce a temptation tomorrow! Read that last sentence again. It is easier to not buy the ice cream, cookies, etc. than it is to eat them responsibly. There is nothing wrong or bad about any particular food, but if you find that any certain food item is a trigger for you, consider eliminating that temptation proactively.
#5. Say goodbye to shame. Life is not about perfection – it is about progress! There is nothing that you can do about the past – even if it was 5 minutes ago. Therefore, when you do make a mistake, just acknowledge it, and choose to let it go. Shame and negative self-talk are sure fire ways to keep you stuck in the unhealthy cycle of emotional eating.
#6. Ask for help. You don’t have to do it along. Yes, we all need someone to lean on. (Please don’t hate me for having that song stuck in your head all day). Along with an entire team of qualified therapists, Total Health Guidance also has a virtual support group for emotional eating that meets every Friday from 12:00 – 1:00pm via Zoom. For more information, please call us at (321) 332-6984.