We eat for all sorts of different reasons, and sometimes actual hunger is low on the list. Emotional eating can often top the list. People eat when they are stressed, sad, or even happy and celebrating. My biggest trap is boredom. I think I am hungry, but usually I am just bored.
The problem with emotional eating is that we often choose the
crappy, I mean comfort, foods that are high in calories, high in fat, high in carbs, and low in nutrients. We all have those bouts of emotional eating. And it’s pretty likely that we will get trapped by emotional eating again and again, so take a few steps now to minimize the caloric damage later.
Out of sight, out of your mouth. When your emotional triggers kick in, one of the easiest ways to break the habit of reaching for the junk is to simply remove it from your house. If you don’t have a bag of chips in the pantry or a pint of ice cream in the freezer, you can’t indulge in it.
I know, sometimes it’s easier said than done. I try to keep the junk to a minimum, but if we have guests over, there are always left over treats lurking in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. The money conscious me has a hard time throwing away perfectly good food.
However, make a plan for a monthly kitchen clean out. Check the cupboard, pantry, fridge, and freezer to throw away any unhealthy foods that may have crept back in. When you’re at the grocery, adopt a ‘just say no’ attitude. Avoid buying chips, cookies, ice cream or whatever other junk foods you like. Tip: strictly follow a healthy shopping list and never go to the store hungry.
But what if you’re emotional trigger kicks in, and that pint of ice cream is still in the freezer. And it’s calling your name? Before you touch that freezer door, take a moment to think, “Is this going to make me feel better?” The immediate answer is probably YES. But sometimes, you just need to step back and have a moment of clarity. Also, consider negotiating with yourself: Tell yourself you’ll wait 20 minutes (set the timer even), and if you’re still craving that ice cream, allow yourself a small scoop and toss the rest.
When emotions overwhelm us, our first instinct may be to reach for something salty, fatty, or sweet, but these empty-calorie foods are not the ones our bodies need to really feel good. The next time you’re tempted to make yourself feel better or celebrate with food, be sure to weigh the positive and negative consequences. Yes, you may feel a little better right after a few bites of chocolate cake, but within an hour, you’ll likely start regretting it, and worse yet, seek consolation in more of the same.