Aoife Ryan gives tips on combatting emotional eating
Using food to suppress or sooth negative emotions is known as emotional eating. Sometimes, eating is a distraction, which allows you to temporarily escape from your problems. Some people, for example, might have a bar of chocolate when they are feeling sad or make a pizza if they are feeling bored. Emotional eating very commonly leads to over eating or binge eating on high calorie foods, which may lead to a feeling of guilt and add more stress. This cycle of emotional eating is one that needs to be overcome in order to maintain a healthy mind and body.
- Before you eat, make sure you are actually hungry
Have a glass of water, sometimes thirst is masqueraded as hunger. If you still feel like eating, wait twenty minutes before you do so. Does your stomach still feel empty? Are you experiencing hunger sensations? If so, go ahead and eat. Eat your food slowly and enjoy it, taking sips of water in between. This will give your body time to let you know when you are full, preventing you from eating to a point of discomfort.
- Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is eating with the intention of caring for health, both physical and mental. It is also paying attention to what we are eaten, by noticing and enjoying food and its effects on the body. Choosing foods for the right reasons is the key. The main reason we eat should be to fuel and to nourish our bodies, but it is important too that we enjoy what we are eating. Mindfulness helps us to be more aware of our eating patterns and to identify emotional triggers. Knowing what these emotions are makes it much easier to avoid using them as triggers for emotional eating.
- Find other ways of coping
Instead of eating when negative emotions arise, find other ways of easing them. Talking to a friend about how you are feeling or going for a walk are good examples of positive coping mechanisms. Using positive outlets will provide a longer lasting feeling of ease. Negative feelings are much more likely to re-surface when food is used to sooth them.
- Be physical
Exercising regularly can help to keep you focused on your body as well as your mind. Eating as a response to emotions rather than to ease physical hunger will cause the connection between mind and body to weaken somewhat. Keeping your body active keeps this connection strong. Taking up a relaxing activity like yoga or pilates may be particularly beneficial if the trigger emotion for eating is stress because they were designed to combat it. Dopamine is released in the brain when we exercise, which is why we feel so happy and relaxed afterwards. Exercising often will increase the body’s production of dopamine, making negative emotions fewer and further in between.
- Snack healthy
Snacking on sugary foods may improve your mood for a while, but eventually you are likely to feel a low again. Instead of a snacking on crisps or sweets, have a piece of fruit or some nuts. These foods release energy slowly and will keep your mood improved for