We all know that behavioural change is hard. Changing your diet can be extremely difficult. This is one of the biggest challenges with patients in nutritional therapy.
Eating is very emotional. You may link many foods and meals to memories from the past, especially from your childhood.
When you feel stressed, lonely, angry or sad you might turn to different comfort foods because you expect to feel better after eating them. These foods can bring back beautiful memories and good feelings. But these happy feelings will be very short lasting, and a sense of guilt and regret will overtake because of overeating unhealthy food. Does it sound familiar?
The fact is that food acts as a reward on the short term. When feeling bad, you will look for this reward to feel better for a short time before feeling bad again and need more reward.
This is a viscous cycle that leads to emotional eating habits. You have to find out how to interrupt this cycle.
A successful lifestyle change begins with the first, small step. This is where we all need to start. Sometimes this first step might be the most difficult one to take. Getting over this first obstacle is the beginning to be successful.
Emotional eating is not about feeding your body but about feeding you mind. It is important to realise that eating will never fix your emotional problems. The real issue needs to be addressed instead. Even if you eat the food you crave, it won’t make the original problem to go away.
Let’s see the difference between emotional and physical hunger (source: Mayo Clinic):
Common causes of emotional eating are stress, depression, boredom (lack of satisfaction with life), anger, loneliness, anxiety. Most of us have these feelings from time to time, but some of us have it constantly. The question is how to address these problems and stop emotional eating?
The first step is being aware of what is happening. You need to identify your basic challenges, emotions to be able to fix them. Unfortunately this is not always obvious at all.
Once you are aware of your problem, you only need to find out how to fix it.
After realising that you are an emotional eater, you can start with a mindful eating practice.
When you have a craving, instead of trying to force your willpower to avoid eating, just go for it. But do it mindfully! This is a very important point.
Follow the instructions below:
eat really slowly
notice the smell of your food
pay attention to its texture and the structure
chew it very well
notice how your body feels when you eat it
pay attention to any changes in your emotions
Once you will see a small result, it will be easier to go on because you will be more and more motivated.
With mindful eating you can reduce and later stop your emotional eating because you realise that the food will not make you feel better. You will notice that it actually will make you feel worse.
Take this as a challenge and get excited about it. Do it together with other people, maybe even online. Join to a group where you get support.
If you feel that you need more help, look for and work with an experienced specialist. You will see, it’s really worth it.