Sometimes the strongest food cravings happen when you are emotionally at your lowest. You may turn to food for comfort, consciously or unconsciously, when you’re facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed, or even bored.
Emotional eating can sabotage your weight loss efforts. It often leads to overeating. And above all too many high-calorie, sugary and fatty foods. The good news is that if you’re prone to eating emotionally, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track to your weight loss goals.
How the Mood-Food-Weight Loss Cycle Works
Emotional eating is a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions. Such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Big life events or, more commonly, daily life hassles can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating. It will disrupt your weight loss efforts. These triggers can be:
- relationship conflicts
- Work or other stressors
- Financial pressures
- Health problems
- Although some people eat less in the face of strong emotions, if you’re emotionally distressed, you can turn to impulsive or bulimic eating. What pushes you to quickly consume what suits you without pleasure.
In fact, your emotions can become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you’re angry or stressed without thinking about what you’re doing.
Food also serves as a distraction. If you’re worried about an upcoming event or in the throes of conflict, for example, you can focus on comfort food rather than the painful situation.
Whatever emotions cause you to overeat, the end result is often the same. The effect is temporary, the emotions come back, and then you probably carry the added burden of guilt for putting off your weight loss goal. It can also lead to an unhealthy cycle. Your emotions are pushing you to overeat. You blame yourself for straying from your weight loss goal. You feel bad and you eat too much again.
How to get back on track?
When negative emotions threaten to trigger emotional eating, you can take steps to control food cravings. Here are some tips to help you stop eating for emotional reasons:
Keep a food diary
Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat. How you feel when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you might see patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.
Control your stress
If stress is contributing to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
Take a Hunger Checkup
Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate only a few hours ago and your stomach isn’t growling, you’re probably not hungry.
Let the urge pass
an emotion-related food craving lasts about 20 min. Wait and it will pass on its own.
You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you don’t have a good support network. Lean on your family and friends or consider joining a support group.
Instead of snacking when you’re not hungry, distract yourself and adopt a healthier behavior. Go for a walk, watch a movie, play with your cat, listen to music, read, surf the internet or call a friend.
Remove the temptation
Don’t keep hard-to-resist comfort foods in your house. And if you’re feeling angry or depressed, put off going to the grocery store until you’ve got your emotions under control.
Do not deprive yourself
When trying to lose weight, you may limit calories too much, eat the same foods over and over, and ban sweets. This could only increase your food cravings, especially in response to your emotions. Eat satisfying amounts of healthier foods, enjoy an occasional treat, and stock up on variety to help curb cravings.
Have healthy snacks
If you feel the need to eat between meals, choose a healthy snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with a light sauce, nuts, or unbuttered popcorn. Or try lower calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.
Learn from failures
If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start over the next day. Try to learn from this experience and make a plan to prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you are making to your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that will lead to better health.
When to seek professional help
If you’ve tried self-help options but still can’t control your emotional eating, consider therapy with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and learn coping skills. Therapy can also help you find out if you have an eating disorder, which may be related to emotional eating.