You know how it goes. You’ve had a difficult week at work. Maybe you had a fight with your significant other. Perhaps you’re helping a relative cope with a serious illness, or maybe you’re confronting financial troubles.
Whatever the cause, you’re stressed. There’s too much to do, not enough time to do it, and you’re having emotional difficulties right and left. All you want to do is grab a bag of chips and a bucket of ice cream, and camp out on the couch.
But of course, what you’re really doing is something called “eating your emotions”. When you eat for emotional reasons, rather than your need for energy and actual nourishment, your weight can quickly get out of control. Often this results in a spiral of shame and regret, and some people even eat those emotions, too!
But you can take back control of your behavior. Follow these steps to get your emotional eating under control.
Banish perfectionism. Ever feel like you already messed up your diet for the day, because you had a cookie after lunch, so you might as well eat whatever you want for the rest of the evening? That kind of black-and-white thinking can get you into serious trouble. Accept that it’s ok to “cheat” a little bit once in a while. The day is not wasted, and you can get right back on track toward your healthy eating goals.
Pay attention to your food. It might seem counter-intuitive to focus on your food. But what happens when you eat while surfing the internet, driving, or watching TV? You probably end up finishing an entire bag of chips or polishing off that container of ice cream, without even realizing it. Don’t eat while your mind is occupied elsewhere. Sit at the table, prepare yourself a reasonable portion of food, and then eat it. When you’re finished, walk away from the kitchen and occupy yourself elsewhere – without food.
Ask for help. Sometimes compulsive overeating is a much more serious problem than, “I got stressed and ate four cinnamon rolls”. If you try the above methods and they just don’t work, or if you’re consuming thousands of calories in one sitting, make an appointment with a mental health professional who specializes in eating disorders. Remember, your emotional health is tightly linked to your physical health. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help.