Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Food is fuel. Food satisfies hunger. Food is fucking delicious. #foodieforlife
However it should not be abused & it shouldn't be our crutch to deal with our emotions. Yet, society raised us to rely on food to satisfy our negative emotions.. Feel sad? Have Ice cream. Feel tired? Have a snickers bar. Feel stressed? Eat chips. Need a break? Have a Kit Kat. Oh and of course, society tells us we also need to reward ourself with food.. Won a soccer gamel? Have ice cream. Accomplish something? Eat cake. Had a long day? Have a glass of wine.
Truth Bomb: We ALL eat emotionally to some extend! The issue is when it becomes uncontrollable or it's sabotaging your goals. When you feel guilt or shame and can't stop thinking about food. Then we gotta deal with it &I am here to help you :)
Here are my 5 tips to stop emotionally eating TODAY.
Being mindful will allow you to notice & change your unhealthy habits that have sabotaged your goals in the past & regain control over both food and your feelings.
1. IDENTIFY THE ''WHY''.
Before you can stop emotional eating, you need to understand WHY you are doing it. Every behaviour you have serves a purpose. That is how our brain is wired. We engage in behaviour to gain something we want or to avoid something we don't want. Plain and simple. These are a few questions to ask yourself to help figure out why you are emotionally eating:
" Are you trying to avoid feeling sad, stressed,lonely, angry or worthless?"
" Are you bored or tired? "
" Are you trying to sabotage yourself?"
" Do you feel like you deserve it? "
"Are you eating out of habit?"
"Is there a particular event happening in your life right now?"
"Do you have secure relationships in your life?"
Figuring the ''why'' is not an easy task. It can be very general (ex: I have low self esteem) or very specific (ex: I feel lonely tonight because my friend cancelled the original plan and now I am home alone all night). You need to reflect on your thoughts and be very self-aware. Give yourself time and compassion through this process.
2. WHAT ARE THE TRIGGERS?
Triggers lead you to emotional eating, they set you off to engage in unwanted behaviours. Some are universal while some are more personal. The idea here is to figure out what triggers YOU so we can then find the solution. They are usually easy to find because you will see a pattern (i.e.: Everytime I do ______________ , I eat). Here is a short list of common triggers & questions you should ask yourself to identify your specific trigger:
This is one of the biggest universal triggers. Stress eating is a real thing. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that seems to play a role in increasing hunger. Studies showed that high cortisol levels (AKA high stress levels) was correlated with poor food choices (High fat and high sugar foods.)
Are you experiencing stress in your life right now?
Is there a stressful event coming up?
Do you feel happy of fulfilled with your life?
When you are bored and don't know what to do with yourself, eating can be an easy way to pass the time.
Do you find yourself wanting to eat every time you are not doing anything?
Are you feeling unproductive?
This one is obvious. When you are tired, you have low energy. Your body will naturally try to get in MORE calories to provide more energy.
Are you tired? Physically or mentally? or both?
Do you have a good sleep hygiene?
Do you feel tired when you wake up in the morning?
Going out with friends or family can be very triggering. If your close circle have bad eating habits and you might be compelled to eat the same way when you are with them.
Do you ever feel pressured to eat or drink when you are out with certain people?
Do you find it hard to resist unhealthy foods when you see other people eating it?
Are you using social setting as an ''excuse'' to eat poorly?
Certain context can be triggering. For example: being alone in your house, being at work, when you are on your period, death in the family/friends, moving out, being on holidays, having visit over , ...
What events/context trigger?
When do you feel like you lose control over your food intake?
When you restrict what you eat, you often crave ''bad'' foods and you will inevitably give in (this is why diets don't work). Plus when you do give in, often the mentality of ''well I already fucked up might as well eat everything'' or ''I have to eat it now because tomorrow I am back on the diet'' which increases risks of binge eating.
Do you restrict your calories intake?
Do you restrict certain food groups?
Do you restrict eating period?
Please note: In some situations, the why and the trigger are very similar and sometimes may be interchangeable. Exemple, if the reason why you eat emotionally is stress, the trigger could be a situation that creates stress for you. However if you emotionally eat out of habit (''why''), stress can be the trigger thats sets you off to eat whenever you feel stressed.
3. REPLACE WITH A NEW HABIT
Now that you have found your trigger(s) it's time to create a new habit so we stop falling into the same cycle. This, my friends, is the hardest step. Breaking a habit is hard. It's something you have to work at everyday until it becomes second nature. It is easier to break a habit when you replace it with a new one (that doesn't involve food). These news habits could be: taking a walk, breathing exercices, putting moisturizer on, calling your mom, drawing/krafts, ...
For example, whenever you get home and you are alone, you tend to over eat... the new habit could be, whenever you get home from you go take a 15 minute walk no matter what, or you take a shower.
Please note: Eating habits are hard to break, especially when they come from your childhood and you have an emotional connection to them. It is important to reflect on why you are emotionally attached to them so you can then detached yourself from this negative habit.
4. BE MINDFUL & CHECK YOURSELF
Before eating, think. Why are you eating? Are you physically hungry? Are you eating out of a habit? Are you trying to push down some emotions? No matter the answer, it's okay. The first step is to be aware of your thoughts. If you feel guilt, shame about what you are eating or about to eat, STOP & hold on before eating. Take 10 minutes to reflect on why you have negative thoughts/feeling and decide if you are eating to fuel your body OR if you are emotionally eating (indulging/binging). If it's the latter, put your food away and engage in your new habit. When you notice you are feeling stressed, tired, bored, sad or anxious, start by taking deep breaths to calm yourself. Meditate or visualize your happy place. Once you feel calmer, than you can start enjoy your meal.
If you are mindful that you are not hungry but you want to enjoy that ice cream, no negative thoughts attached, that is perfectly okay! It's normal to sometimes eat when we are not hungry HOWEVER check your thoughts. Being mindful allows you to notice and change your unhealthy habits, that have sabotaged your diet in the past, and regain control over both food and your feelings.
5. GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY
The best way to stick to any new habit is to have an accountability buddy! Unfortunately, we are more likely to break promises we make to ourselves than to anyone else.. Therefore we will use this to our advantage! Let's say your biggest triggers are at work, pick a work friend to help you stay accountable to your goal. If you trigger is mostly at home, ask a sibling, parent or your significant other for a hand. All you need to do is tell your accountability buddy what your goal is, how you plan on getting there and ask them to check up on you once in a while. Being vulnerable is hard, I get it. However getting help will help you achieve your goals and most likely connect to a deeper level with your inner circle.
WOOOAH, this a lot of information to swallow.#braingains Remember, change takes time. DO NOT beat yourself up if you fall here and there because it will happen. As long as you are moving forward and putting forth the effort, you are awesome.
Start implementing these steps today and stop emotionally eating!
Want me to be your accountability buddy? Contact me :)
Have a great day my friends,
Marie-Pier Pitre-D'Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
EXTRA JUST FOR YOU :D
As a kid, we would order KFC or pizza every Friday night. It was a way to celebrate the end of the week and have a special family meal. Fast forward 20 years later, whenever Friday comes around I crave food! I want to go out or order in, I want high fat and high sugar foods. It took me a while to make the connection. So now, I created a new habit on Fridays that doesn't involve food.. Every Friday, I have a date night planned! It can be something simple like taking a walk by the river or watching a movie. However, I now look forward to date nights on Fridays instead of high calorie foods!