As an infant we are fed multiple times a day, as kids we're always asked if we're hungry and as adults we continuously have events planned around food (especially family traditions). These traditions, rituals and beliefs are passed down from our parents normally and that's when the conditioning begins. No wonder our behaviour around food, eating and meal time can be skewed.
Now, have you ever sat back and considered the role that your emotions have on your physical actions? Most of us have emotional barriers that when triggered can cause a negative chain of actions to occur and the feeling of being out of control. If this sounds like you, no need to worry, a lot of our clients felt the same way before starting!
The good news is, you can program your mind to overcome these barriers by adopting strategies to help you remain positive, motivated and self-aware. Here are some ways to help overcome your emotional triggers and stay focused on your fitness and health.
Learn to identify your triggers - both good and bad and be prepared when something sets them off. Because they will be set off. Life is full of ups and downs and navigating the world is bound to throw you some curve balls.
For example, if emotional situations lead you to comfort eat, just before you eat something you really shouldn't, ask yourself three things:
1) Am I hungry or thirsty? (If yes, how can I make this a healthier choice?)
2) What am I feeling and what impact would this food have on my feelings after I eat it? How can I have that impact on myself without eating it…?
3) What nutritional value does it have for my body?
When you feel like you deserve a 'treat' or 'reward' and reach for bad food, try changing your self-talk. We can sometimes catch ourselves using negative language which can in turn impede our judgement. For example, rather than say I've worked hard I deserve this chocolate, try saying - I have worked hard I deserve to be respectful to my body by not putting unnecessary sugar and fat in. Instead there are plenty of great, tasty alternative recipes in VVT that you can use.
Rewarding yourself by other more positive means will help you to form new behaviours. Examples include: booking in for a massage, buying something new, a facial, pedicure or simply by taking a hot bath at home when in need of a de-stress. These are simple yet effective means of changing that negative habit of emotional eating into something constructive.
When you feel upset or in a position to sabotage your efforts, you need to try to take a step back from the situation and identify what has happened to make you feel sad or angry and address that issue first. Exercise is a great mood enhancer and whenever you are feeling frustrated, sad or annoyed by a situation, I strongly recommend that you try to get out for a walk or run. This can change your focus as well as help to move around adrenalin making you feel a lot better!
Remember to always try to use positive words which make you feel in control, such as "I choose not to have this" rather than "I can't" or "I am not allowed". Language you use every day has a far greater impact on your awareness than is realised. If food is a comfort for you, put them into categories to help you avoid bingeing on the wrong foods, labels such as "all the time foods" (i.e. vegetables, protein) "sometime foods" (bread, high carbs etc.) and "every now and then foods (ice cream, chocolate) as this helps you maintain control and is a better mindset to be in.
Knowing the reasons why you do these things is imperative to changing behaviour. Below are 6 contributing factors that lead to eating without being hungry:
- Body Image Issues - disliking your bodies plays a big role in emotional eating. Sometimes when you feel shame around your body it can lead to turning to food as a comfort. Counterintuitively leading you into poor habits and likely gaining more weight.
Solution - Be open to loving your body here and now yet know that you have choice in any situation and are willing and able to make better decisions starting now!
- Unawareness - your food practices can become unconscious when the intention to finish your food yet its left in front of you. Then you keep picking at it and soon enough the plate is empty.
Solution - Start eating slowly and remain mindful of what and how much you're eating.
- Physiology - when the body is tired or too hungry the message sent to the brain to eat are a lot stronger. Unfortunately, this makes it incredibly easy to give into our craving or to eat whatever's in front of you.
Solution - Make sleep a priority in your life and eat small meals throughout the day (having something small with you can be an advantage when you're busy on the run).
- Inability to deal with certain feelings - at a young age some we're taught to be happy, smile and play while also supressing the "bad" feelings. Without the skills to navigate negative feelings this can cause people to turn to something they are certain about. Comfort food.
Solution - We recommend to let whatever feelings come up be felt in the moment. Bottling them up can only lead to these feelings being more potent when they arise next time. By allowing the emotion to pass through you, you can also become more aware of what triggers you to eat.
- Eating as your only source of pleasure - sometimes when you look at food as soothing or pleasurable, it can become a habit that is hard to break. Not to say that food should not be enjoyed, however when it becomes the only thing that's enjoyed it becomes problematic.
Solution - in order to break this 'rewarding' loop you've got to find things that are more productive and enjoyable. Examples such as a walk though nature, catching up with a friend, enjoying a good book, doing team events, going to the beach or playing with your kids.
- Dehydration - unfortunately most people can confuse thirst with hunger.
Solution - drink 2 litres of water per day and ensure you eat frequent meals throughout the day.
Knowing now that emotional eating only improves our mood temporarily and can cost us a lot in the long run, we can start to adjust our behaviours. We know what to do now, and a trainer will help you with the how. The final step is to understand why we need to change. Although the journey will have its challenges, I can promise the reward in the long term far outweighs that tub of ice-cream we all reach for after a break up. With these tips you can break your emotional eating habit today and start being happier, healthier and more fulfilled!
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.