Soothing Emotional Hunger Without Food

You’ve got a huge deadline at work. Your kids are at each other. Your aging parents need help. Plain and simple, you are stressed. How do you deal with it? Do you stop at the fast food drive through on the way home? Do you gobble down half a bag of chips while zoning out on the tv? Maybe you curl up in bed with a container of Ben & Jerrys and before you know it, you’re scraping the bottom? We’ve all caught ourselves at one time or another giving into emotional eating.

Here’s what we know. We know that we can’t lose weight without limiting our calories in. So how do you get past the urge to use food to fix feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration, maybe even happiness? How do you keep your kids from falling into the same trap.

Emotional eating is a habit and like any habit, with some effort, it is possible to break that habit. I won’t lie to you and tell you it’s easy, especially if food is how you’ve been managing your feelings for likely, most of your life. Weight problems can often time run in families, so the easiest was to tackle emotional eating is together as a family. It’s much more difficult for someone to stop binge-eating snacks when the rest of the household is eating them.

Let’s begin with these four habits to help kickstart you kicking your emotional eating habit!

Let’s start with simply, making your house healthy. Guess what that means? Yep, time for a kitchen clean out. If there is no junk food in the house, you can’t binge on it. Take a look at your pantry and cut out your go to temptations.  Instead, keep already prepared unprocessed, low calorie, low fat foods such as fruits, veggies, hummus, and unbuttered popcorn on hand. I like to make my own bento boxes for my family so when they want to snack they just have to reach in the refrigerator. I like to put in them a hardboiled egg, maybe some slices of turkey, apple slices, veggie sticks, hummus, or maybe a yogurt dip…some nuts. You get the idea. It’s not always 100% unprocessed, but it’s a lot better option then Cheetos. Before you go grocery shopping, take a breather, make sure you’ve eaten, and wait until your emotions are in check to avoid making impulse purchases.

Figure out what is triggering emotional eating.

The next time you reach for comfort food, ask yourself, “Why do I want this candy bar? Am I truly hungry?” If not, try to figure out the why. Are you stressed, angry, sad, scared, or my personal favorite, bored?  Keeping a food journal and documenting how you were feeling when you ate can be really helpful in aiding you to see patterns and how mood affects what you choose to eat.

Find Alternatives that satisfy YOU.

Once you figure out why food makes you feel better, you can learn to create better behaviors that can help you cope rather than always turning to food. Do you get frustrated because you feel like you’re not in control of a situation? Go for a walk. Bored? Distract yourself by calling a friend or maybe go pick some weeds. (I’m sure that’s at the top of most people’s favorite thing to do list.)

Whatever you do, do not deny yourself all treats. It will in the end lead to cravings and bingeing. Instead, allow yourself to have your favorite treats OCCASSIONALLY, in smaller portions. Limit the amount of chips you eat by putting them in a bowl to control mindlessly eating out of the bag.

Celebrate success.

Focus on positive changes, one step at a time. You’ll get better results with encouragement than by harsh criticism. Be kind to yourself and celebrate the small wins. Changing any habit is a process, expect back slides. When they happen, and they will, do not quit. Use the experience as a way to plan how you’ll deal with it in the future and continue on.

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