Are you the kind of person who turns to comfort foods to feel okay when dealing with difficult situations? You have finally met someone who understands where you are coming from. Not so long ago I was there too. I would eat junk food every time I faced life challenges. Whenever I needed to relieve stress from a rough day at work, all my mind told me was, “eat, eat, you will feel better.” It was so bad at times that whenever I felt upset, bored, lonely, angry, or exhausted, my first impulse was to devour any edibles I found in the fridge.
Did it make me feel better? Yes! However, it was only for a short while. I would feel worse afterward. Not only was the emotional issue still there but I also had additional feelings of guilt for overeating. I became stuck in a vicious and unhealthy cycle where my problems and emotions were never addressed.
To make matters even worse, I lost control of my weight due to the intake of too many calories. Before I knew it I felt helpless and had lost my willpower. I knew that I had to do something. Since everything starts from the mind, I knew I needed to embrace a new mindset.
Here is how I stopped emotional eating and started feeling better about life.
I acknowledged that I had a problem
You cannot stop something that you don’t believe to be there in the first place. It is easy to be in denial to avoid knowing your true self. It was the hardest part. You have to be honest with yourself and accept that your way of dealing with emotions is negatively affecting you. Admitting that you have an issue is the first step to fixing it. You feel much better about yourself.
I practiced some self-love
I had evaded my emotions for a long time, but this didn’t mean I was a hopeless case. I could start again. However, to do so, I had to be compassionate with myself. I stopped judging and criticizing myself for the things I did. I decided that I was not going to be a slave to my emotions anymore and instead, started to allow myself to feel. I understood that not every emotion has to go away immediately, some take time, but it will be well in the end. You don’t have to be perfect. You are only human, and sometimes you will fail. There is no need to beat yourself up when things don’t go the way you want.
To quote Winston Churchill:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Developing new eating patterns was not easy by I developed the determination to get up every day and try until I succeeded.
I took note of the triggers that caused my emotional eating
I was not just indulging in emotional eating out of nowhere. I had triggers that caused me to feel the urge to eat. I needed to identify them so that they didn’t find me off guard. For this, I created a diary, recorded the foods I ate and what I was feeling at that moment. After some time, I recognized a pattern. I ate junk foods mostly after a tough day at work or when I felt hopeless. It made it easy for me to control emotional eating because I could recognize the situations that brought me to the edge.
I discovered the distinction between emotional hunger and physical hunger
Now that I knew what emotions triggered the cravings, it was paramount for me to know the difference of feeling emotional hunger and physical hunger. I was eating food so regularly that determining the difference was a bit tricky. I figured it out though. Emotional hunger is nothing like physical hunger. Emotional hunger is powerful, sudden, and overwhelming. It has irresistible urgency to particular comfort foods. It leads to mindless eating and begins in the mind instead of the stomach. Knowing the kind of hunger I was feeling went a long way.
I looked for alternative healthy ways to deal with my emotions
At this stage, I was aware I had a problem, I knew what triggered it and could tell when emotional hunger kicks in. This is similar to when a baby is looking for maternal breasts in the hope of calming down and feeling safe. The only difference is that comfort foods were not the way to go this time. I look alternatives ways to distract myself from the urgeed for alternatives ways to distract myself from the urge:
When I felt lonely, I would chat with a friend or family to feel better. Sometimes playing with my cat was all I needed.
Instead of turning to the fridge when I felt anxious, I took a walk or danced to my favorite song.
When I arrived home exhausted from a rough day, a cup of coffee or a warm bath did me a lot of good.
I watched a comedy show or played the piano when I felt bored.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle such as getting enough sleep, healthy and mindful eating, mindful relaxation, and daily physical exercise was resourceful in stopping stress eating.
Emotional eating doesn’t make you feel better. It only bars you from facing your emotions head-on and makes you gain is weight. If you want to stop emotional eating, start by acknowledging you have a problem, the rest will follow. Emotions will come flooding at times, but your willingness for change will help you cope. You will be capable of putting your cravings on halt as you look for other healthy ways to deal with the emotional trigger. Break the vicious cycle of emotional eating and start feeling better about life now!
Kate Walker is an experienced copywriter with a deep interest in psychology and self-development. She constantly improves her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs and online magazines.
Image courtesy of Tyler Nix.