WHAT IS EMOTIONAL EATING, WHY DO WE SEE MORE OF IT AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, and WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Emotional eating is the habit of eating, sometimes compulsively--not to satisfy hunger, but to soothe feelings. You may not even be aware of the underlying emotions or circumstances that are causing you to eat. You are feeding your feelings and distracting yourself from the real issues.
The holiday season causes a lot of stress for many people--stresses related to seeing family members whom you may not want to see, going back to a childhood home, feeling insecure about how you look at holiday parties, feeling alone and lonely, and the list goes on. Here are a few quick tips to help you get through the next couple of weeks.
1. Identify what your triggers are. It is helpful to keep a journal and record your emotions and what you are eating at the time. This helps in two ways: It keeps you mindful of what you are putting in your mouth and will give you insight, helping you to identify a potential problem so in the future you will be able to recognize a situation is brewing.
2. Distinguish between Physical Hunger and Emotional Hunger. Check yourself to make sure you are, in fact, physically hungry. Ask yourself, When did I last eat and what did I eat? Rate your hunger on a scale from 1-10: 1 being stuffed and 10 being starving. Where do you fall within that scale? 3? 4? 5? Then put the food away.
3. Get enough sleep. Being tired is a food cue or trigger for many of us. We reach for food as an automatic response to fatigue. Undoing such ingrained behaviors is not going to happen overnight, but it can be done! Next time you feel exhausted try to give yourself a few minutes: close your eyes, try a breathing technique to relax, or go for a walk outside! Any of these strategies, if done over time, will replace reaching for a snack when you are tired.
4. Never put food on a forbidden list. Never say, I will never eat a certain food again. It is great to clear your kitchen and house of tempting foods; but if you eat food from your forbidden list, it will only lead to feelings of guilt that may cause you to spiral downward. Everything in moderation! No forbidden foods. Every food is “plannable” and can be worked in to your diet.
5. Which leads me to my next tip, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. If you will be traveling, think about what food choices you will have during the trip and bring snacks. Plan your meals based on where you will be. If you know that a situation is going to cause you stress, go over the scenario in your mind, think positively, and put into place a plan of action.
6. Lastly, in dealing with emotional eating during this time of year, set up some REALISTIC goals. And when you reach any of these goals, it is important to give yourself a reward. Positive reinforcement! A manicure, pedicure, a dollar in your savings jar. This is an important part of the process and shouldn’t be overlooked!
Allison Tannenbaum MS, RD www.AllisonTannenbaum.com Twitter @Nutrition4Life