Do you race to the pantry whenever you are upset? Some of us get the strongest food cravings when we feel the weakest emotionally. This makes us, consciously or unconsciously, eat without any control. You do it because most people find comfort in food, and it is called emotional eating. Emotional eaters find themselves binge eating many times a week to suppress negative thoughts. Some of them feel guilty after eating in such a way, making them more upset, and the cycle continues.
Emotional eating often leads to eating foods that are high in calories, such as chocolates, sweets, and fried foods. This also sabotages your weight loss efforts and affects the overall health. Even though you get intense food cravings while upset, the good news is that there are ways to control what you eat and stay on track with your weight-loss goals. The following strategies might help people suffering from emotional eating.
1) Find Other Ways to de-Stress
This is probably the first step towards overcoming emotional eating. Find some other way of dealing with your negative emotions and stress. This can include reading a book, or watching a comedy movie, or spending time with someone you feel comfortable with when you are upset. For this to work, you have to experiment with various stress-relieving activities and find the one that helps the best. You can also exercise or meditate when you are upset and have cravings.
2) Keep a Food Journal
Write down whatever you eat in a day and maintain a food journal. This will help you identify triggers that make you eat emotionally. There are various apps available that allow you to keep track of what you are eating. It might be challenging to include everything you eat, but try to include even the smallest thing you eat along with your feelings at that moment. Such food diaries can be shared with your doctor when you decide to get professional help.
3) Eat Stress-Relieving Foods
Certain food items have stress-relieving qualities. So when you feel stressed, sip on a cup of hot green tea, white tea, or matcha tea. These teas contain L-theanine that reduces stress levels. Fight your midnight cravings with a bowl of cherries or blueberries. Dark cherries increase the levels of melatonin in the body and help you to fall asleep. Other foods that can help are sweet potatoes, fermented foods like kimchi, fatty fish, broccoli, garlic, and chickpeas.
4) Dejunk Your Pantry
If you find yourself indulging in high-fat, high-calorie, or sweets, then consider donating such foods. Clean your fridge and pantry of chips, ice-creams, sodas, chocolates, etc. Avoid going to the grocery store when you are upset, as you will be more inclined to buy junk food. Keeping such foods out of reach when you have a craving might break the cycle.
5) Seek Help
Even after trying to deal with emotional eating and stress, do not isolate yourself if you are unsuccessful. Pick up the phone and call a friend or family member for help. Talk to them and find out if they can provide any assistance. If not, you can always seek professional help from a therapist or a nutritionist, either online or in-person. With the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy, you can deal with negative emotions, which will change your eating habits.