It’s way too easy to get in the habit of emotional eating, especially when life is rough. Maybe you’re really stressed, or you're going through a tragic time and dealing with mild or even severe depression. It’s easy to turn to food as a way to deal with your feelings and sometimes eating certain foods actually can help your mental state.
However, when we become reliant on food to help us feel better, emotional eating can become a bad habit. You can put on weight, break out, and sometimes become even more depressed than before. It can be a hard cycle to break, but there are a few different ways that'll help to do it.
Below are five ways you can break the emotional eating habit, and start handling your emotions in a healthy way without the need to constantly indulge.
1. Identify Your Triggers.
When you reach for something to eat, whether it's a piece of fruit or a pint of ice cream, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are you actually hungry? If not, write down why you’re eating. Journaling is a great way to get to notice patterns in your daily life and learn more about yourself. Writing down why you ate is a great way to highlight and learn why you’re eating when you’re not hungry, and identify “triggers.”
Once these triggers are identified and you become aware, you can break the habit by choosing to do something else other than eat. Maybe go for a walk or doodle.
2. Become More Mindful.
When you do eat, do it mindfully. Be fully aware when you take each bite, and think about how you feel. Be present, and see food as nourishment, not just something you have to do to get over something or deal with pain or stress. Cooking mindfully is great for the mind and body too, because it forces you to focus on what you are doing and be in the moment.
When you cook with love and see food as nourishment, you treat your body better and realize that you should only be eating when your body asks to be fed, and with good food. When you learn to love and appreciate your body, you’ll have less of a tendency to abuse it with emotional eating,
3. Do Something Physical.
When you have the craving to reach for food out of stress or sadness, try going for a run or doing some yoga. If you’re at work and don’t have access to a track or yoga class, try going for a walk. The goal is to channel your feelings into something healthy like exercise so you don't reach for the food.
4. Replace Eating With Other Healthy Habits.
Instead of eating when you’re stressed, try to replace emotional eating with other healthier habits. If you insist on having a snack to make you feel better, make sure it’s fresh fruit or another healthy option. Or read a book or go for a bike ride. Channel your emotions into things that will boost your mood and keep your healthy.
5. Understand That All Your Feelings Are Okay.
Sometimes when we are feeling stuck in an emotional rut, we beat ourselves up about it. The important thing to remember is that it’s okay to feel the way you do, and no one should be telling you otherwise. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s okay. If you’re dealing with depression, don’t let someone tell you to just “get over it.” There are several resources out there that can help you through this time, and there are caring therapists out there you can talk to and who will listen.