By Attiyah Blair
How often do you eat when you’re not even hungry? You know what I mean. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
• You just finished eating dinner and you are full but for some strange reason you still have the urge to chew.
• It’s midnight but your craving for pizza and chocolate is so intense you get up, get dressed and give in.
•You’re at home alone on Valentine’s Day and you decide to call on the two men you can always count on Ben & Jerry.
• You finally make it home after a long day, your boss was mean, your kids didn’t clean, and you can no longer fit your favorite pair of jeans so you grab a bag of potato chips and eat until it’s all gone. The strange part is you get to the bottom of the bag and you still feel empty.
Can you relate? If you’re not careful your emotions have the potential to take your waistline and hold your health hostage. If you’re like me you’ve tried many times to stop emotional eating and stick to a healthy regimen only to fail over and over again. What I’ve learned is that Monday motivation, a New Year’s resolution and good intentions are never enough to get the job done. It takes planning and preparation. The good news is I’m here to help you. If you feel out of control sometimes and you’re ready to get back in the driver’s seat, here are 7 ways to crush emotional eating once and for all.
1 Emotional hunger vs. physical hunger
When emotional eating rears its ugly head you need to know whether you are dealing with emotional hunger or physical hunger. It is very simple. When you are experiencing physical hunger your stomach will feel empty because you have not eaten in a little while and your belly will begin to rumble. Anything else is emotional eating. One of the crystal clear ways that I’m able to identify emotional cravings is when I have a strong desire to eat a specific food. When that happens I know the empty void that I am attempting to fill is not in my stomach. Physical hunger is satisfied with any kind of food. It does not have to have a sandwich from my favorite deli with extra cheese and sauce with spicy jalapeno chips on the side. Emotional hunger usually wants something specific.
2 What are you really hungry for?
When you ask yourself “is this emotional or physical hunger?” and the answer is emotional hunger the next step is figuring out what emotions are at the core of your need to pig out. After you determine what you are feeling take 5 minutes to sit quietly to think or journal about what you’re feeling. You will often times discover that by becoming aware of your emotions certain cravings will automatically disappear. Before you reach for a slice of chocolate cake after experiencing an uncomfortable or difficult emotion like fear, stress, anxiety, or guilt, pause and remind yourself that it is not food that you really want.
3 Separate comfort from food
We’ve all heard the term “comfort food.” If you are serious about losing weight and getting healthy it is a must for you to reset your thoughts. It’s time to separate comfort and food. Comfort foods feel good in the moment but guilt often times sets in after we give in. Think about what you tend to eat when you are looking for a mood boost. Probably not the healthiest option right? The worst thing you can do when it comes to your health and waistline is depend on food for comfort.
4 Make a list of comforting activities.
That brings me to my next point. Since we now know that using food for comfort is counterproductive to our health goals we need to find a substitute. It’s time to grab a pen and paper. Make a list of 8 activities that make you feel happy that you can easily do when you want comfort. You can include activities like dancing, getting your nails done, listening to music, or taking a walk in the park.
5 Remove Triggers
Many of us move so fast on a daily basis that we don’t pay attention to the fact that the same people, places or things trigger us to overeat everyday. If you are able to pause long enough to identify what your triggers are you will have a powerful tool in your battle to be fit. Let me help you out with an example. If seeing the candy jar on your co-worker’s desk is irresistible or if you seem to pig out every time you are with your best friend those may be trigger points for you. Once you identify your triggers put a plan in place that includes a way to reduce or eliminate them.
6 Go to sleep
While helping my clients reach their weight loss and health goals, I have observed that one of the number one causes of emotional eating is feeling chronically tired due to lack of sleep. Sleep is a part of a healthy body’s ecosystem. If you don’t sleep enough it becomes very difficult to have energy to exercise or even think about eating healthy. Adjust your schedule so that you get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Your body will thank you.
7 Always have healthy food around
Maybe one day there will be as many healthy smoothie and salad restaurants as there are fast food restaurants but until then we’ve got to be prepared. If you are like many of the women I help, food is often times an afterthought. Make sure you plan to eat a satisfying breakfast and be prepared with snacks and lunch every day.
If you follow these steps you’ll be well on your way to getting the body you want and the good health you need.