We hear it from many of our clients; despite their high level of motivation, dedication to making healthy changes, and a promise of ‘I can do it this week – no cheating’ sometimes giving into cravings just seems too hard.
We often hear:
“but I really thought I could just have one bite of that cookie”
“my craving was so intense that afternoon, I just had to eat it”
“I was so depressed after seeing the number on the scale, I just gave up for two days and ate everything I could.”
“I just can’t do this. I have no will-power. Ugh, another diet FAIL.”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? If yes, you too may be emotionally eating.
It isn’t that they or you failed at another ‘diet’ but rather that perhaps we are not addressing emotional eating.
So why do these cravings seem so real? So strong? According to Craving ChangeTM, a proven program for addressing emotional eating ‘we may be craving the feelings that result from eating, not the food itself.’
For example, we often turn to food for comfort, as a reward, in celebration, as a coping mechanism for stress, or to fill a void. What we are craving are feelings of joy, comfort, happiness and fulfillment.
We all emotional eat at some point, but when emotional eating leads you to feel helpless and not in control of what you put in your mouth, making healthy choices that are in-line with your goals seems impossible. Problematic emotional eating is when we turn to unhealthy foods often, when we eat too much (‘binge’), or when we eat when we are not hungry.
We are here to help! While everyone’s situation is unique, we have some general steps that we can work through with you to help to overcome emotional eating.
Here are our top 5 tips to stop emotional eating:
Step 1: Eat regular, satisfying meals and moderate hunger
If we are physically hungry, it’s almost impossible to overcome emotional “hunger.” Step one is to make sure that you giving your body the nutrients that it needs. Also key to step one is listening to your fullness cues as well, and eating only until you are comfortably full.
Step 2: Identify your triggers and raise awareness (mindfulness)
Spend some time thinking about your thoughts. Think about the last time that you ‘emotionally ate’ and what the situation was and how you were feeling. Identify your triggers and find ways to avoid them or other things that you can do instead of eating (see step 3).
Step 3: Find other ways to feed your feelings
We can all agree that, in the long-term, eating the rest of the container of ice-cream is not going to make you feel less depressed or anxious. Find other outlets for when these emotions hit, like taking a bath, calling a friend, going for a walk, or anything else that you find truly enjoyable and won’t regret afterwards. Keep a list of these activities on hand for when emotions hit.
Step 4: Pause when a craving hits (and it will)
Stop and think! Set an alarm clock for 5 minutes and tell yourself “If I still have this craving in 5 minutes, I will think about it again then.” We often recommend some resources for clients to work through during this ‘pause’ including becoming aware of their emotions, journaling, distracting and replacing eating with drinking water or herbal tea.
Step 5: Practice Intuitive Eating
This one takes some practice! Intuitive eating means listening to your body and eating foods that you know work for you and your goals. It includes mindful eating, or really tasting and enjoying the food you’re eating. With intuitive and mindful eating, you CAN have just one square of chocolate and be satisfied.
Are you looking to overcome emotional eating and get summer-ready? With many of our clients, we use resources from Craving Change, a program created by a registered dietitian and a psychologist to specifically address problematic, emotional eating. We offer both group and one-on-one counseling to help overcome emotional eating and if you feel like it may help you, please contact Nutrition Professionals of Canada for a complimentary 20-minute session.