How to stop emotional eating? 8 Steps to help you transform!

How to recognize and put an end to stress eating? How to stop emotional eating? 8 Steps to help you transform!

Eating is not about satisfying hunger. For those who only eat to fulfill their needs, this is the time when their diet fails. Many people will turn to food to relieve stress or even cope with unpleasant emotions, including sadness or boredom. Right after eating, their situation becomes worse more than they thought in the first place.

Not only does the original emotion problem remain, but you also feel some guilt for overeating. No matter how powerless you become for food cravings, understand the fact that there’s an answer. Thru mindful eating, you can change your habits and regain full control over food and feelings.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating, also called stress eating, is taking advantage of food to make yourself feel better. You are eating to fulfill your emotional needs, not your physical hunger. You might order a pizza if you are lonely, eat a cup of ice cream when you feel down, or swing by the drive-through after an overwhelming day at home or in the workplace.

Occasionally, using food as a reward or a means to celebrate is not a bad thing. However, when it becomes an emotional coping mechanism, it is not advisable. How are you going to know when you use food to cope up with stress eating? It is when your first impulse is to open the fridge whenever you are upset, lonely, weary, stressed or bored. After a long span of time, you will get stuck in the cycle and not be able to overcome the real problem.

Emotional hunger cannot be possibly filled with food. Eating may help you feel good. However, the feelings that caused you to eat unsolved. More often than not, you will feel worse than your past condition because of the unnecessary calories you consumed.

No matter how powerless you feel over your feelings and foods, you still have the opportunity to change it. There are healthier ways that can help you deal with such emotions and learn to eat mindfully and put an end to emotional eating.

How to know whether or not you are an emotional eater?

  • Do you eat more when you are stressed?
  • Do you eat even when you’re full or hungry?
  • Do you consider eating as a way to feel better?
  • Do you see food as a reward?
  • Do you always eat until you have stuffed yourself?
  • Do you consider food as a friend? Or do you feel safe when you eat food?
  • Do you feel out of control when you see something to eat?

If you agree to all these questions, you are an emotional eater without a doubt. In case you don’t see signs of stress eating, you have a healthy lifestyle for sure.

Difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger

Emotional hunger is said to be powerful. That is why it is easy to mistake it for physical hunger. The good thing is that there are clues that will help you differentiate physical hunger from an emotional one.

Take a closer look at the following:

Emotional hunger comes on abruptly. Emotional hunger hits you suddenly and feels overwhelming. On the other hand, physical hunger comes on gradually. The desire to eat does not demand quick satisfaction. But this will feel as dire as possible when you have not eaten for a long time.

Emotional hunger needs specific comfort foods. When you are hungry physically, anything sounds good. However, emotional hunger hankers sugary snacks or junk food that offer an instant rush. You will feel like you need pizza at the moment. And nothing else will satisfy your cravings.

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you notice it, you have eaten a bag of chips or a whole pint of ice cream without the feeling of enjoyment. When you eat as a response to physical hunger, you are more aware of everything you do.

Emotional hunger is not contented once you’re full. You are often eating until you reach the point that you are awkwardly stuffed. On the other hand, physical hunger does not necessarily mean you will be stuffed. When your stomach is full, you will experience satisfaction.

Emotional hunger is not located in the stomach. Rather than a pang in your stomach, you consider hunger as a craving that keeps running in your mind. Not only that, you are more focused on particular textures, smells and tastes as well.

Emotional hunger often leads to shame, guilt, or regret. When you eat to fulfill physical hunger, you will not feel ashamed or guilty. It is because you give your body what it needs. If you experience guilt or shame after eating, you know that you are not eating for nutritional reasons.

Determine your emotional eating triggers

What feelings, places, or situations make you crave for the comfort of food? Emotional eating has been associated with unpleasant feelings. Nevertheless, it can likewise be triggered by positive emotions such as celebrating a happy event or rewarding yourself for a goal you reach.

Here are the common causes of emotional eating:

Stress – Do you ever notice how stress makes you desire much food? It is not just in mind. When stress becomes chronic, your body produces it so often. When it is left untreated, it leads to a high level of cortisol, a stress hormone. It triggers cravings for sweet, fried, salty foods, or anything that gives you so much pleasure and energy. The more uncontrolled stress, the more likely you will rely on food for emotional relief.

Surfing emotions – Eating can also be a way to stuff down many uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anxiety, loneliness, shame, anger, or resentment. While you are numbing yourself by eating food, you will be able to avoid difficult emotions you do not deserve to experience.

Boredom or feeling of emptiness – Do you eat to give yourself a task to do? Or perhaps do you eat to relieve boredom? Whatever the case maybe, you will surely feel empty or unfulfilled. And food is your way to occupy your mouth and your time. It distracts you from feelings of dissatisfaction with your life at the moment.

Childhood habits – Have you ever remembered to be rewarded with ice cream when you were young by your parents? These habits can continue into adulthood. Or your eating habits may be driven by nostalgia for a cherished memory of baking cookies with your mom or dad.

Social influences – Spending time with other people for a meal is a good way to relieve stress. However, it can lead to overeating. It is very easy to overindulge as the food is there and others are eating. During social situations, you may overeat because of nervousness. Or possibly, your close friends encourage you to eat more than you need to take.

Find other effective solutions to feed your feelings

If you cannot manage your emotions without food, you cannot gain control over your eating habits. Diets fail because they provide logical nutritional advice. But they only work when you have careful control over the food you eat.

When your emotions hijack the entire process, it will not work. For you to stop emotional eating, find other ways to satisfy yourself emotionally. The moment you understand emotional eating or your triggers, your job does not stop there. But it is already a huge step for you. Take advantage of the alternatives to food for emotional fulfillment.

Good alternatives to emotional eating

If you’re depressed or lonely, call a relative or a friend who makes you feel better. You can play with your pet or look at a photo album. Once you see a photo of someone close to you, you will already feel happy. You will never crave for food when you feel down.

If you’re anxious, expend your energy by taking a walk, squeezing a stress ball, or dancing. Give it a try and see how your emotions improve.

If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a cup of tea, light scented candles, wrap yourself in a comfy blanket, or take a warm bath.

If you’re bored, read a fun book, engage in an outdoor activity, watch a comedy show, or do your passion. You can play the guitar, shoot hoops, and a lot more.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is known to be a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits. It allows you to pause between your actions and triggers. Many emotional eaters feel powerless over their cravings for food. When the desire to eat hits, you will feel an unbearable tension, demanding you to be fed right away.

When you had tried to resist before and failed, you believe that your willpower is not strong enough to fight against emotional eating. But don’t you know that you have more power over your food cravings than you have expected. Take action and see what you can do.

Take five before you give in to a craving

Emotional eating is automatic and mindless. Before you realize what you do, you have reached a pint of ice cream. If you try your best to reflect, you give yourself the chance to come up with a different and positive decision.

Can you put off eating for five minutes? If not, one minute is enough. Never tell yourself that you cannot give in to the craving. Always bear in mind that the forbidden is tempting. Tell yourself to wait and be patient.

While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How do you feel? What is going on emotionally? Although you end up eating, you will understand why you did it. That is a great chance for you to set yourself up for a stronger and more positive response in the coming days.

Learn to accept your feelings – even the bad ones

While it seems that the real dilemma is that you are powerless over food, emotional eating lies from feeling powerless. You do not think that you are capable of handling your emotions, so you try to avoid them by food.

Making yourself feel uncomfortable emotions can be terrible or even scary. For sure you may fear what will happen next to you. It is just like Pandora’s box. The time you open the door, you will never shut it. The truth is that you do not obsess over your emotions. Even the most painful feelings subside, losing their power to control your attention.

For you to do this, you need to be mindful and learn the process of staying connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. It will help you to rein in stress and overcome emotional problems.

8 Steps to Mindful Eating

This ancient practice can help you transform the way you think about food and set the stage for healthy eating.

Like many of us, you have eaten something in the past few hours. Perhaps you cannot recall everything you ate. Whether you are working, reading, watching television, you don’t know what you’re eating.

By paying attention to what you eat, you may not indulge in cheeseburgers, fries, pizzas and other unhealthy foods. Mindful eating means being attentive to the food you include in your diet. You are careful about shopping, preparing, serving, to consuming.

In the book Savor entitled Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, Dr. Lillian Cheung and ThichNhatHanh suggest various practices that can help you achieve mindful eating. Take a closer look at the following to know more information.

  1. Begin with your shopping list. As a consumer, always consider the health value of all items you purchase. Stick to your shopping list to avoid impulse buying. Fill your cart in the produce section. Plus, never go to the center aisles. These may have processed foods, chips, and candies you don’t need.


  1. Come to the table with an appetite – but now when ravenously hungry. Do you skip meals? If so, you may be eager to eat anything. When you find yourself in this situation, your priority is filling the void instead of enjoying what you eat.


  1. Start with a small portion.Limiting the size of your plate may be beneficial. As a result, you will not be tempted to eat more than your body needs.


  1. Appreciate your food. Before you begin eating, pause for a minute to contemplate. Express your gratitude for the chance to enjoy delicious food and.


  1. Bring all your senses to the meal.When you’re cooking and eating your food, make sure to pay attention to the color, aroma, and texture. Also, try to identify the ingredients, particularly the seasonings as you chew your food.


  1. Take small bites. It is more convenient to taste the food when your mouth is not full. Keep in mind to out down your spoon in every bite.


  1. Chew thoroughly. For you to taste the essence of the food, chew it well. You may chew it from 20 to 30 times for a better result.


  1. Eat slowly. Spend five minutes to mindful eating before you can talk to your close friends.

Adapted with permission from the February 2016 Harvard Women’s Health Watch, a Monthly newsletter published by Harvard Health Publications.

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