The first step to conquering emotional eating is admitting that there is a problem. But where do you go from there? I’ve struggled with emotional eating for my entire life. I’ll never be “cured” from it but here’s some helpful tips I’ve found that anyone can use to help stop emotional eating.
Keep a Journal
One very effective way to find out what triggers emotional eating is to begin a process of keeping a journal. A bullet journal can be a great tool to help you. The drive to engage in emotional eating is largely subconscious (as well as spiritual). Keeping a journal can be a powerful tool in discovering what’s going on in your life that might lead to an emotional eating binge. This is going to take some conscious effort, but every time you’re tempted to eat out of emotion, write down what’s going on. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? If you think about doing it after the binge, examine yourself. Were you at work, school, home or out in public? Were you with friends, loved ones, coworkers or alone? Were you upset or stressed out? You’ll probably notice a pattern of behavior emerges.
Find Your Triggers
After you’ve spent some time taking journaling and doing some inner work, you may find out what some of the major triggering events might be. If you have done some inventory, found that you weren’t really hungry and that cravings appeared during specific situations, you’re probably stress eating. One of the easiest ways to quit almost any destructive habit is to simply replace the unhealthy behavior with healthy behavior. If you can, get rid of any unhealthy foods around the house so that you don’t succumb to temptation when stress happens.
It might be hard to think about praying in the heat of the moment. Try putting some positive slogans or scripture printables in your kitchen (on the refrigerator or on the pantry). Discipline yourself to read through something encouraging before you start eating mindlessly.
There’s nothing like getting outside, even for just a five minute walk, to reduce stress and help to gain a better perspective on whatever’s stressing you out.
Exercise and deep breathing can be very effective in managing any kind of stress. (Yoga is great for this.) Shallow breathing has been found to increase stress in the body, so spending the time to learn breathing techniques such as pranayama can lead to positive health benefits and stress reduction. For me, I’ve noticed that practicing yoga and mindfulness has helped me to become more aware of stress and negative emotions that are building up.
When we succumb to emotional eating, what we’re really doing is numbing our feelings and self medicating. Learning to recognize self-destructive patterns of behavior and replacing them with positive habits is key to overcoming emotional eating. And as I mentioned, for those of us with long-standing eating disorders, we’re always going to be vulnerable to emotional eating. Ongoing recovery and change will only happen by intentionally practicing good habits to replace the destructive ones.
Positive changes don’t happen right away and there’s bound to be stumbles. If you’ve had a binge, forgive yourself. Accept that it happened and move on. Your next healthy meal is only three hours away.