Are You Feeding Your Emotions?
Emotional eating happens to everyone at some point in their lives. Learn to recognise the signs and follow these easy steps to manage it
Cravings aren’t always because of hunger. Sometimes, the root cause is emotionally-driven. The mere act of eating is one that your body processes as a pleasurable one. In addition, the consumption of high sugar or high fat foods is recognised by your brain as a comforting action, which explains why many of us go on a binge (consciously or even subconsciously) whenever we are stressed, as a means to give our body temporary pleasure.
This phenomenon is known as emotional eating, because instead of eating to nourish your body, eating is used as a tool to suppress negative emotions like anger, stress, sadness or loneliness. And while major incidents like the death of a family member or the end of a relationship can trigger emotional eating, chronic stress from daily life can also cause emotional eating. Regardless of whether you binge on an entire box of chocolates, a pint of ice-cream or a big bag of chips, it’s not impossible to stop yourself from quite literally, feeding your emotions. Here’s what you can do to arrest it:
Step 1: Self-Awareness
Similar to many other vices that people often become addicted to, the first step to recovery is being self-aware. Acknowledge that you have an emotional eating problem and make it a goal to manage it. Be mindful of the possible triggers that are behind these emotional eating episodes and how you’re feeling about them. Try keeping a food diary, so you can list down what you ate, when you ate them, and how you were feeling each time. This will give you a pretty good idea of how much food you’re actually eating out hunger and how much of what you’re eating is a result of emotional stress.
Step 2: Occupy Yourself
The truth is, when you are going through an emotionally traumatic phase in your life, it is easy to succumb to emotional eating whenever you have some free time on hand. It’s a subconscious way we try to keep ourselves busy in order to avoid dwelling on negative emotions. While we can’t deal with stress or heartbreak easily, we can find other ways to occupy ourselves instead of turning to unhealthy food. Pick up a new hobby like calligraphy or embroidery to take your mind off whatever’s bugging you. Alternatively, channel your frustrations to working out and sign up for something high intensity like boxing or spinning to unleash the pent up energy. If you prefer something more zen and grounding, opt for yoga or meditation. The Yoga School has a great selection of classes such as Restore, Yin, Build, and Meditation to help you re-centre yourself and feel more grounded.
Step 3: Avoid Temptation
Sure, managing emotional eating takes more than a little willpower. So why not help yourself by keeping unhealthy foods like bacon, chips, marshmallow and ice cream out of your refrigerator? Instead, stock up on multi-grain crackers, vegetable sticks, low-fat dips and baked vegetable chips so that your body is not paying the price when the urge to binge strikes you.
Step 4: Forgive Yourself
Sometimes, our worst critic is none other than our own inner voice. Embrace the fact that being human means having emotions (yes, even negative ones) when you’re dealing with emotional trauma. Instead of beating yourself up for failure, accept your shortcomings and learn from them so you can move forward with. And if you still end up succumbing to a bingeing episode, accept that it is perfectly human to not be on top of things 100 percent of the time. There’s no point miring in guilt and helplessness when you find yourself in the middle of a binge-eating episode. Instead, try to process what those negative emotions are trying to tell you. Only when you understand your underlying triggers, will you be better equipped to manage your emotions and actions, and steer clear of future bingeing episodes.
Step 5: Seek Support
Think back on the times when you embarked on a new fitness routine: wasn’t it easier to stick to it when you had workout buddies? Similarly, when it comes to breaking the vicious cycle of emotional eating, don’t isolate yourself. There’s no shame in turning to your friends and family for emotional support. Talk about what’s troubling you and lean into the love and support of your loved ones. Figure out what you truly want in life and set short-term goals to help yourself shift.