Food is a deeply intimate and personal experience. Though food is meant to energize and nourish the body, the vast majority of people use food as a coping mechanism for their emotions, leading to all kinds of unhealthy eating habits and struggles. If this sounds familiar, these 6 steps to overcome emotional eating may help.
Notice the Pattern: The first step to overcoming emotional eating is to recognize your patterns and habits. Do you always crave the same food? Is it always at the same time of day or in response to the same stimulus? Crunchy foods are associated with anxiety, stress and aggression. Creamy, rich foods are associated with comfort, nurturing and sadness. As soon as you can start to identify when, where and why cravings start, the better equipped you are to identify your triggers and set up a plan to battle them.
Create a New Response: Think back to your childhood. Was food used to reward good behavior and was that food sweets? Was food used to soothe and comfort sadness? If so, do you still seek ‘comfort’ food in time of distress or loneliness? Do you still associate celebration or accomplishment with high sugar indulgence?
If food is a reward or comfort for you, start to re-train your habits by creating a new response. Celebrate a birthday, a birth or career success with a massage or a piece of clothing. Comfort stress or sadness with a walk or a movie.
Listen to Your Body: When emotional eating and cravings strike, ask yourself if you’re hungry enough to eat an apple or a hard-boiled egg? If the answer is yes, then eat one! If the answer is no, the source of your urge is emotional, not physical. Overcome this by asking yourself what it is you’re truly desiring in that moment. Is it a hug? Are you tired and needing energy? Frustrated and need to vent? Stressed and need some reassurance? What can you do, that isn’t food related, to address and soothe the root cause of your need?
Honor Yourself: Food, especially for women, can be a source of hidden frustration, an outlet for stress, and a source of attention and love. Instead of using food to bury your emotions, SPEAK. You have thoughts, feelings and needs. Don’t hide them, or yourself, behind a bag of take-out. Speak your truth and allow yourself the honor of being heard, seen and taken care of.
If food brings up a sense of guilt or failure, let it go. You are powerful, strong, intelligent and beautiful. Honor yourself as such. Refuse to hide. YOU have the power; not the food.
Breathe Through It: If food cravings and binges overwhelm you, take 1-5 minutes to breathe through it. Distract yourself with a phone or walk, if you like, or simply sit in stillness and breathe. Allow the chaos of your thoughts and the stress of the day dissipate. Pay attention to the in-and-out motion of breathing and take the time to check-in with your entire body. Are you holding tension in your shoulders? Tightness in your chest or stomach. Use this opportunity to release the tension, the urge and the emotion. Once 5 minutes is over, seek out what it is you’re really needing.
Find an Alternative: Sometimes you really do just need to put something in your mouth. If that’s the case, find a ‘clean eating’ alternative to what you’re craving. If it’s chocolate, make your own homemade Almond Butter Fudge. Need a crunch? Try sweet potato chips. Looking for creamy comfort? Roasted sweet potatoes or Cauliflower Mash are delicious substitutes for mashed potatoes. And don’t forget to eat well throughout the day. If your meals are balanced and healthy, your body, blood sugar and emotions will follow suit.
Above all, treat yourself with love and patience. Overcoming emotional eating will take time and persistence. You’re bound to have a few set-backs but don’t use that as an excuse to give up. Your thoughts are as powerful as your emotions and your thoughts directly relate to your actions.
For additional support, please reach out to Jodi personally. Be sure take a to look at the variety of nutrition plans, programs, detoxes and meal plans offered at Eat Clean Health and don’t forget to sign up for the Eat Clean Health monthly newsletter.