Have you ever eaten a big meal and still felt the urge for more food? Have you ever kept eating when you knew you weren’t hungry? Do you feel a deep hunger that you just can’t get rid of, no matter how much food you eat? These are classic, telltale signs that you are struggling with emotional eating. Here are 4 strategies from a weight loss coach and holistic nutritionist that can help you overcome the cycle and improve your relationship with food.
5 Signs You Are Suffering From Emotional Eating
1. You NEED to eat a very specific food.
When something comes up in our lives that causes uncertainty, fear or lack of control, we often turn to food to ground us and provide comfort. An emotional eater will turn to very specific foods, unique to each person, hoping that they will bring comfort.
2. You keep eating after you’ve finished a meal.
When we emotionally eat, we are often using food as a substitute for something that is missing in our lives. Whether we are lonely, disconnected spiritually or searching for purpose in life, food can temporarily fill a void. If you feel like you can never get full from a meal, you may be using food to try to fill areas in your life that need to be fulfilled with something besides food.
3. You eat very quickly.
If you find yourself eating quickly or “inhaling” your food, you could be trying to “numb out” or push away your emotions. It’s uncomfortable for us to address certain stressors in our lives so the body turns to a very easy and comforting distraction to block out the stress: food.
4. You eat immediately after a stressful event.
If the first thing you want to do after you’ve gone through a stressful event is eat, chances are this is emotional eating. You may feel like eating when something positive happens, such as a promotion, or after a difficult negative experience such as losing a loved one. Either way, by turning to food, you are trying to dull or negate the intense emotions you are feeling.
5. You feel guilty about eating.
After we emotionally eat, both the brain and the body are aware of it, even if we don’t know what triggered it. Feeling guilt or shame after eating a meal is a red flag for emotional eating.
4 Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating
If these signs sound like you or your habits, you’re not alone. Emotional eating is very common, and emotional food cravings can be caused by many different feelings, such as loneliness, boredom, fear, insecurity, self-sabotage or sadness. These emotional triggers can be difficult to figure out, but there is always hope. Consider implementing one of these 4 strategies to stop the negative thoughts and overcome the urge to eat.
1. Stop and think.
As soon as you feel compelled to eat, impose a 15-minute, cooling-off period. Ask yourself if this is a physical hunger signal or an emotional craving. If the answer is an emotional craving, consider what could be causing it and try to find an alternative solution that isn’t based on food. Drinking a glass of water helps too, as we often confuse thirst signals with hunger signals. If you are still craving the item after the 15 minutes have passed, give yourself permission to indulge, but do your best to indulge in moderation!
2. Remove the temptation.
This is a simple but effective step! Remove yourself from the situation or location where the problem food is located until you can wait out your 15-minute cooling-off period. Sometimes taking a walk or distracting yourself with a good book is all you need to get over the emotional food craving.
3. Breathe and feel.
Take the time to breathe deeply during the cooling-off period and look at what is going on in your life, gut and heart. What emotions are being triggered? Being able to acknowledge and admit your feelings is often enough to relieve most cravings.
4. Replace negative feelings with positivity.
When you start feeling that emotional craving to eat, remind yourself of a time when you felt love, happiness or joy and attempt to feel that positive emotion again. Relish those positive feelings! Think about this: a negative emotion and positive emotion cannot occupy the same place in your mind. By striving to think positively, you can push away the negativity. You can also use affirmations such as, “I forgive, accept and trust myself.”
As you work on your relationship with food, keep in mind that eating healthy and delicious food can and should be a great source of pleasure. Focus on eating when you’re truly hungry, and not using food as a distraction from excitement, pain or anxiety. It’s important for our physical and mental health to begin to recognize our emotions and triggers, and begin taking the steps to stop emotional food cravings.
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