Many people turn to food for comfort, consciously or unconsciously. For example when they’re facing a difficult problem or feeling low. Eating can be a way to suppress or soothe emotions, such as stress, anxiety, boredom, sadness and loneliness.
Some higher calorie, fatty and sugary foods have seemingly addictive qualities. After eating chocolate your body releases endorphins, giving you a natural high, boosting your mood.
Food can also be a distraction. If you’re worried or anxious, eating comfort foods makes your thoughts focus on the pleasant taste. Unfortunately, afterwards the anxiety returns plus the additional guilt about overeating.
Although emotional eating can make you feel better, it’s a temporary fix and leads to eating too many high-calorie foods. The good news is you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits.
- Are you really hungry? If you ate recently and don’t have a rumbling stomach, you’re probably not. Try a glass of water instead.
- Know your triggers. Keep a food and thought diary looking at how you feel when you eat. Look for patterns that reveal negative eating patterns and triggers. For example do you eat more after a bad day at work?
- Try distraction techniques – Take a walk, watch your favourite film, listen to music, have a warm bath, read or call a friend.
- Limit your comfort foods, out of sight, out of mind! Keep a selection of healthier snacks around such fresh fruit, low fat yoghurt or plain popcorn
- Eat a balanced diet, with regular meals. If you’re not eating enough you are more likely to give in to emotional eating.
- Exercise regularly and get adequate rest. Your mood is more manageable and your body can more effectively fight stress when it’s fit and well rested.
If you slip up, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience, and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future.
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