Emotional Eating

Hunger comes in two forms…
Physical hunger and Emotional hunger.
Before we delve into the realms of coping with Emotional eating, we first need to be able to tell the difference between physical and emotional eating.
Emotional eating is set off by a trigger and comes on very suddenly. It is usually for something treat based too rather than your body requiring nutrition. Physical hunger is a much more gradual process and the ‘snack’ craving is not there so much.  If you are genuinely hungry you will eat almost anything.
I am sure many of you have children and I am sure you’ve heard the line…’Mum, I’m starving!’
If you offered your child a bowl of sprouts, would he/she eat them? No, they wouldn’t.
Would they eat ice cream? Yes, absolutely.
This proves straight away, that they are not starving and that there is another reason for them wanting to eat. An Emotional reason.
Are they bored? Cold? Lonely? Been influenced by the television, radio or friends? These are all regular sources of emotional eating.
It will be the same for us as adults. Similar triggers will exist such as loneliness, boredom, stress, tiredness and media influences.
Stress is probably the most common cause for emotional eating in adults. This is because stress affects your hormones. By becoming stressed your body increases its levels of the hormone Cortisol.  This causes you to crave high fat, salty and sweet snacks. These foods provide you with an instant lift but soon you will be feeling down again. And you will probably be in a worse state than before because you’ve just destroyed a whole tub of ice cream. This makes you unhappy and stressed and the cycle starts all over again.
How many of us have felt fat and then reached for a bag of crisps to cheer ourselves up? It is obviously the worst thing to do when you are feeling fat but you’re a slave to your hormones. They have a lot of control over you and no matter how much you try you cannot stop eating the crap. You gain more weight and continue down this terrible path
Well, now we know how to distinguish between physical and emotional eating, the best way is to keep a craving diary.
If you have worked with me in the past, you would have kept a food diary at some point. Not just tracking your food but also how you feel every 3 hours during the day. From this I can see many things and one of the things I look for are reasons for snacking.
You should keep a diary that notes every-time you snack. Why you wanted the snack and how you felt afterwards. Once you can start to see the reasons for your snacking you can look at the Trigger that made you reach for the unhealthy food in the first place and look to address the trigger rather than the snack itself.
So we have listed some triggers already, let’s look at them and how to combat them.
  • LONELINESS/DEPRESSION – Logic dictates that eating a tub of ice cream isn’t going to fix this. Instead try calling a friend, going to see your parents, play with your pets, meeting with friends/family or even just going to the cinema can help. If you are lonely then try to surround yourself with people. A walk around the shops on your own can even be a help just to hear and see people rather than sit on your own.
  • BOREDOM – Similar to Loneliness. Get up and be active. Go for a walk, take part in a hobby or activity you enjoy, take up a new hobby or read a good book.
  • EXHAUSTED/STRESSED – Relax with a cup of tea, take a bath. Make your surroundings peaceful so you can de-stress. Put on some candles, light music and relax. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket and do something relaxing such as reading or listening to a book on Itunes.
By making some of the above habits a daily or weekly routine you will find that your emotional eating can be well controlled and that they can actually be used as a preventative cures rather than a ‘repair’ procedure.
Emotional eating is just a form of bad habits. You get stressed by a co-worker, you eat cake. Sometimes losing weight or getting fitter is not all about the right food and the right exercise. It is not even about developing new habits sometimes it is purely about improving the bad habits that already exist in your daily routine.
So the next time you feel the need to snack just stop and pause for 10 minutes. Is it hunger or are you an emotional eater? Do something to take your mind off food for these ten minutes and decide again if you are truly hungry or just trying to satisfy a craving.
If you would like to know more, you can apply for a free Breakthrough call with me below….
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