Using food to improve your feelings is what falls under emotional eating territory — for example, turning to a pint of ice cream, a large pizza, or some other food indulgence after a rough day. Emotional eating is something we all face at some point or another, so it’s time to ditch the guilt and figure out what’s underlying.
Don't be mistaken that treating yourself every once in awhile means there's a deeper issue - this is normal behavior. On the other hand, using food to quell unhappy feelings or to fill a void is where the problem lies. Doing so may cause a momentary sense of relief, but it always brings more negative emotions than good. The guilt and shame send us down a spiral, which can then in turn cause more emotional eating.
If this has been happening to you often, it’s time to dig a little deeper and see what's going on underneath the surface and find new tools to defeat the habit.
Let's touch on some ways you can create new patterns without guilt...
1. Feel your feelings
Staying with your feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, is essential for battling emotional eating. It's okay to feel your feelings, embracing them instead of making the decision to avoid them. The sooner you acknowledge those feelings, the sooner they will disappear. Write about them in a journal and release. Talk them through with a friend or loved one. Reserve your tasty treats for your chosen special days, not when your emotions are driving you to them.
2. Savor the moment
Look for the moments in your life where there are light-heartedness and happiness. The clouds in the sky, the way the sun feels on your face, a relaxing bubble bath…these are all things to savor. Do it with your food too and eat mindfully. Enjoy that slice of veggie pizza, but take each bite with thoughtfulness to honestly eat for enjoyment and not to snuff out feelings.
3. Don’t eat unless you’re hungry
Make sure you’re hungry before you eat. If you aren’t sure, have a glass of water first. Wait 10 minutes after drinking it, and if you still feel hungry, now's the perfect time to reach for a bite to eat. Exercise healthy eating 80% of the time and when you mindfully and moderately indulge, it will have less of an impact. Balance is everything, and I live by this myself, too.
4. Know your triggers
Keeping a journal will help you see what triggers set you off for emotional eating. When you identify the cause of what makes you head for the fridge, then you can stop those triggers in their tracks.
5. Keep healthy in your control
Stock your fridge with delicious yet nutritious foods so that the temptation isn't there. Carrot sticks with hummus is a satisfying snack that takes little to no effort to prepare. When you make healthier choices all around, it’s easier to control your emotional eating.