Emotional Eating is a phrase that gets thrown around. But what does it mean and how do you recognise the signs of an emotionally charged meal time?
Here is a question to ponder, do you find that you eat because you are genuinely hungry or is there something else driving you to pick up the knife and fork?
There are many reasons behind the food choices we make, unfortunately not all of these benefit our bodies energy level, strength or help us in observing a healthy balanced diet. If you find yourself repeatedly choosing food for reasons other than these, or that you are not always making the right food choices then you may need to assess whether or not you are an emotional eater.
One of the main factors why so many of us struggle to attain our health and fitness goals is due to eating in reaction to different situations - for example when we are stressed, upset, bored or tired and eating becomes a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the associated perceived pain of the emotion.
To be able to combat this, we need to recognise the tell-tale signs of emotional eating. You will need to become conscious of your feelings and identify patterns in behaviour. Do you find that when you are bored you snack on the sofa? What about the habit of getting in the front door and heading straight to the kitchen? When someone or a situation upsets you do you feel the need to make yourself feel better by indulging or do you regularly reward yourself with treats as you have had a bad day or stressful week?
For some it is hard to talk openly about their emotions and food can take the place of talking. In this instance try to write down how you are feeling before grabbing the nearest chocolate bar as this will help get the emotion out and is extremely therapeutic.
Others find that it is the habits that have been formed over years that are holding them back. For example, when growing up if, Saturday night was movie night with pizza and ice-cream where all the family got together, you will always associate relaxing time at home with having to indulge. Whilst weekly treats are ok, they should be spontaneous rather than habitual and if you missed one it wouldn't be the end of the world.
During times of stress or feeling overwhelmed take time out, if you are in the office, go for a walk to the nearest park and take a few deep breaths. Guaranteed by the time you return to your desk you will feel better.
If you suspect that you do have an emotional eating problem, the first thing you should do is to look at your feelings and try and discover which emotions are contributing to the problem. Eating when you are not hungry, eating too fast, or eating while ignoring something stressful, are all signs of emotional eating.
The key to overcoming emotional eating is to break up your routine and response patterns. Recognising these are the first step to creating new habits and being one step further away from being controlled by your emotions. If there are aspects of your life you are unhappy with, these do need to be addressed and resolved so you can feel fulfilled, satisfied and balanced.
One emotion that can prevent emotional eating is happiness and joy - try and find ways every day to connect to something or someone that creates this for you. It may be catching up with a friend over the phone, finishing off a project and seeing the fruits of your labour, going to see a show or just taking time out for you.
Remember the how you look on the outside will always be a true reflection of what is being put inside and whilst you may be able to temporarily hide your emotions with food you will not be able to run away from them permanently. It is essential these are addressed to avoid slipping into dangerous eating disorders which can fully control you and be hard to break free from.
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