Our emotions dictate a lot about our lives. How you conduct your day to day life, how you react to different situations and the choices you make are all determined by your emotions. In fact, your health and well being is more closely linked to your moods than you might think. One aspect of your well being that is strongly ruled by emotion is your appetite. Have you ever thought about how many times you have eaten food to treat some kind of emotional problem? We’ve nearly all done it once or twice in our lives! But if this habit is ongoing and causes you problems, then it is time to address your emotional eating.
Emotional eating is when you turn to food for comfort at times of poor or negative mood. You may know how this works yourself, if you have ever eaten to distract yourself from poor mood. It’s a common cure for heartbreak to indulge in some ice cream or indulgent foods. At other times you might reach for a glass of wine to unwind after a long and stressful day. You may even eat if you get bored! All these scenarios are fairly common and normal.
However, when you frequently experience negative emotions and frequently turn to food to treat them, you may be an emotional eating. Emotional eating can create a cycle of poor emotions, eating, and more poor emotions. This can ultimately damage your sense of well being. Tackling emotional eating as soon as possible can preserve your well being.
Identifying the Root of the Problem
The cause of emotional or comfort eating is always negative emotion. Negative emotion can mean any kind of mood or problem like chronic stress, anxiety, depression, or other mood imbalances. If you are an emotional eater, you need to identify the emotion or emotions that are causing you to turn to food for comfort. You may find that it is a general emotion, or certain emotional situations that lead you to eat for comfort. When you identify your triggers, you will be identifying the root of the problem. Identifying the causes can help you to treat the problem and restore your relationship with food for good.
People often crave foods that are high in sugar or fats. This is because these foods initiate the release of hormones and ‘feel good’ signals in the brain. This is why you get a quick mood high after eating a donut or chocolate bar!
Ways to Tackle Negative Emotions
One very effective dieting technique that can help you to mange your eating is to keep a food diary. Many people who want to tackle eating problems of all kinds can use food diaries to help them. A food diary is a journal where you write down what you eat and when, and the feelings before and after you ate. A food diary can be used to tackle emotional eating, and is free yet effective.
The main purpose of a food diary is to help you identify your eating habits, and the causes and effects of these habits. Once you see these habits in plain writing before you, it can suddenly become obvious what your triggers for emotional eating are.
Maybe a certain time of day, like when you get home from work, is when you start having cravings. Or you may notice that you overeat on a day when you’ve had an argument. Use a diary to help you identify triggers, so that you can start tackling them directly. This food diary is also a mood diary, and can help you to express your emotions in a private and useful way.
You could try treating your emotional issues with some relaxation techniques. If stress or anxiety is causing your appetite to be severely disrupted, then you need to find ways to calm and clear your mind. One of the easiest yet most effective ways to combat stress and anxiety is to try breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises involve you clearing your mind completely and focus on your breath. Try to count how long your breath takes, and focus on establishing a regular and easy breathing pattern. You should find this helps you to clear your mind and calm your nerves. You should try some breathing exercises when cravings and hunger strike, and see if this calms your appetite.
You could find that calming your mind and focusing on your body helps you to understand how you actually feel, and whether you are really hungry or not. Breathing exercises are simple and convenient, and can be done anywhere! So if stress or anxiety strikes at work, or in public, try focusing on your breathing and you may find it helps you to overcome emotional eating.
Looking after your emotional and physical wellbeing in general is always important. But when you are facing a problem like emotional eating, nurturing both your body and your mind can help you to recover. Make sure you get regular exercise. Staying fit and active can help you to manage your appetite naturally.
Exercise is also known to encourage the release of Dopamine, the “feel good” hormone. Exercise can help you to boost your mood and combat stress. It can also help you to control mood better in the future. Exercise and sports can also be a good way to distract yourself from cravings and emotional hunger. For example, if you start wanting to eat because of poor mood, go for a walk! You may find that this helps you to clear your mind and normalize your appetite.
You should also pay attention to your sleeping patterns. People who suffer from Insomnia often indulge in midnight snacks as a way to pass time and to distract from the lack of sleep. But you can also lose a lot of energy when you have irregular sleep. This will leave your body feeling weak and fatigued. Your mind will also be working harder, and you will be more prone to low mood and irritability. Because of this, irregular or poor sleep can lead to food cravings and emotional eating.
Your hormones will be out of balance when you don’t get enough sleep. This can mean that your body does not produce or register the appetite hormone properly. The 2 appetite hormones are ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and leptin, which registers fullness.
Obviously, these hormones need to be in balance if you want a normal appetite. But with a lack of sleep, they can be out of balance and your appetite will be negatively effective. This can make you more prone to emotional eating. Try to make sure you get regular, deep sleep. Look for ways to help you fall asleep easily and quickly, such as taking a warm bath with lavender before bed.
Some herbal supplements can also promote sleep. Whatever course you take, regular sleep will balance your body and mind and help you to avoid emotional eating in the first place.
Seeking counseling is a good idea. A lot of people shy away from counseling and therapy, but these same people could benefit a lot from professional advice and support. Counseling can seem like a strange and scary process to someone who has never had therapy before. But sometimes a counselor or therapist can offer you professional advice, and give you a confidential setting to talk about your emotions and problems in. A counselor can specifically help you to manage your mood, and to talk specifically about your relation ship with food.
Give yourself some time to improve. We aren’t all perfect, and nobody expects you to recover overnight. Beating emotional eating takes time and effort, so go easy on yourself. If you have one set back, don’t let it stop you in your tracks altogether. If you have a bad day and find yourself tucking into some cake before you know it, don’t beat yourself up about it.
We all give into temptation now and then, and its normal! Just consider that as one set back, and carry on fighting emotional eating as much as you can. If you give up at the first sign of trouble, you will never improve. So whilst making an effort to improve, don’t be harsh on yourself. Give yourself a bit of Tender Loving Care, and let yourself have indulgences now and then. If you have enough willpower to only treat yourself now and then, you could find you are more restrained the rest of the time!
When tackling emotional eating, your number one priority should be tackling your negative emotions. Poor emotional health can be the root of many psychological and physical problems, and learning to look after your emotional needs is a very good idea.
Whilst it can be tempting to focus on food as the problem, looking at yourself and your emotional state can actually be the most direct route to normalizing your diet.