When you are facing a difficult situation in life, when you are going through tough times, or when you are plain and simple bored - do you tend to make headway to the kitchen? Beware, my friend - for you may be indulging in emotional eating! Emotional eating is a disorder, yes. But it is not something to be scared of. Understanding what emotional eating is and what triggers it can help you stop emotional eating.
Understanding Emotional Eating
It may be hard for you to believe, but we all do at least a little bit of emotional eating once in a while, at some point of time in life. Don't agree with me? Then ask yourself this - have you ever had a chocolate bar when you were feeling lonely? Have you ever had a bag of chips when you were getting bored? Have you ever craved for your favorite cheese burger when you were angry or upset with someone or over something? Well... need I say more?
The reason to remind you of such instances is to make you ponder over whether you are really emotional eating or not. If you have done any of the above things once in a while, that is fine. Food is supposed to nourish your body and mind, so if you feel good after having a chocolate pastry, it's okay! But if eating to feed your 'emotional hunger' becomes a habit, THAT'S when it becomes a disorder. The good news is, just as quickly as we let a small habit become a disorder, we can easily get rid of it too! All it takes is to identify what triggers emotional eating in you. Once you know the bull, you can take it by the horns!
5 Easy Ways to Find Your Emotional Eating Triggers
The causes of emotional eating, or eating disorders in general, are many - peer pressure, social isolation, difficult parents, difficult partners, abusive relationships, stress, anxiety, depression... However, the triggers for emotional eating can be very specific and unique. It is important you identify your triggers and nip them in the bud. Here are a few easy steps to do just that.
Observe and Avoid
Try to observe the type of food you crave to eat - fried food, sweets, cheesy things. Observe how you feel after you eat what you have been craving. Do you feel sad? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel ashamed about yourself? Do you feel sorry? Do you feel worse than you did before eating? Then you just had yourself an emotional snack! Observe your state of mind before and after eating. If you notice a pattern, you are on the right track. Avoid the pattern that triggers emotional snacking. Be vigilant - but do not be hypercritical! One does feel like snacking once in a while, and that is okay. As long as you don't let it become a habit, you are good to go. But do be honest with yourself and identify if what you are feeling is emotional hunger or real hunger. Having said that, how does one tell the difference? Read on...
Know the Difference
Many a time we are so consumed with this sudden intense hunger that we cannot tell the difference - are you really hungry, or are you craving an emotional snack? The main difference here is, normal hunger develops gradually. But emotional hunger just suddenly hits you hard in the face! If you are hungry at dinner time and you feel like having a cheese pizza, that's okay. But if you feel something like "I want a cheese pizza and I want it NOW!" in the middle of a lecture, or in the middle of work (or in the middle of the night even!), understand that it is only an emotional hunger. Try to analyze what you are exactly 'feeling' at the moment - tired? Frustrated? Hopeless? Anxious? Nervous? Afraid? Disappointed? Find the cause behind feeling like that, and attend to the cause, not the 'hunger'.
Set a Routine
Set yourself a routine and try to follow it everyday. Include a little bit of everything - exercise, work, fun and socializing. Everything that we do feeds our mind, heart and soul with its own 'food'; from a movie we watch, to a song we listen to. Do not underestimate the importance of any of the above in life. Plan your week ahead and keep yourself engaged, so you are never left sitting in the sofa with nothing to do! Of course it is not possible to be doing something every waking moment! In that case find creative ways to invest free time in reading, painting, gardening or some such relaxing activity. Nothing busts boredom as much as engaging in something intricate and creative - like paper quilling for instance!
Develop Healthy Eating Habits
The importance of a healthy diet cannot be stressed enough! Whoever said "You become what you eat" knew what he/she was saying! Include everything in your diet - do not totally leave out a particular kind of food because it is fattening or 'less healthy'. Everything is good in moderation. You cannot NOT feel like having a burger and fries ever! (Unless you don't LIKE burgers and fries, of course!) But 'being strict' with yourself is not a very nice thing to do!
Develop a positive attitude towards life. Try to inculcate a sense of optimism in your personality and your approach. Talk to people when you are feeling stressed or low. Vent your feelings out by penning them down on a piece of paper or in a diary if no one is around to talk to; and most importantly, throw the paper or diary away after you are done!
Emotional eating is really not something to be scared of tackling. Neither is it something that should upset you! Have faith in your ability to deal with life, and you will be able to wriggle yourself out of the clutches of emotional eating. And with that, I am going to go have a snack! Oh no wait, am I emotional eating?... No, no I'm not; I am in a good mood, and my stomach did grumble! Adios!