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How to stop eating your emotions

How to stop eating your emotions

When you hear the term “comfort foods,” a well-balanced meal generally isn’t what comes to  mind. We tend to instead reach for “filler” foods to satisfy a void replaced by fullness. Think of a  pint of ice cream after a breakup, or takeout pizza after a stressful work day. Eating in such a  way creates an unhealthy cycle often leaving you feeling regretful and powerless over food.  Identifying when and why you turn to food for comfort is the first step in determining how to  avoid making the same decision again. 

The first step in breaking the cycle is identifying the difference between physical hunger and  emotional hunger. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. Rather than it gradually developing as  your body requires nutrition, this instead is a desire for instant gratification. 

Secondly, the type of food is an indicator of physical vs. emotional. When you are physically  hungry, your desire to eat supersedes a desire for a specific food. Healthy options such as a  salad or vegetables would satisfy your needs.

Emotional eating is a specific craving meant for  instant gratification. Like the immediate need for chocolate and nothing else will suffice. A major  problem here is that even when you eat your desired craving, it may never be enough to satisfy  your hunger. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed.  Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your  stomach is full. 

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical  hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it  needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not  eating for nutritional reasons. 

Finding healthy alternatives to emotional eating can help lead to healthier habits and avoid  repeating the cycle. 

  • If you’re depressed or lonely: reach out to someone who always makes you feel  better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento. 
  • If you’re anxious: expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song,  squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk. 
  • If you’re exhausted: treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented  candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket. 
  • If you’re bored: read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn  to an activity you enjoy. 
  • My favorite thing to do is to make a cup of tea! We have created a bundle of teas designed to prevent emotional eating.  Check it out here.

It is also always recommended to reach out to a mental health professional if you are struggling  with emotional eating in such a way that it is disrupting your life and/or your mental state.