Emotional Eating: 5 Tips To Overcome It
Author: Colette Nieuwoudt
Do you suffer from emotional overeating? Does the following ring a bell? Do you eat when you are upset, angry, stressed, etc. even when not hungry? Do you sometimes hide food from your friends and family and eat it when you are alone. Do you sometimes eat when you are not aware of it and often feel guilty and ashamed after eating? If the above questions seem all too familiar then you probably to have an emotional or binge eating problem. All hope is not lost - as the title of this article suggests, you can overcome it. Read on!
The first step to overcoming any addiction is to recognize that you have a problem and to take responsibility for it. Next, keep a food journal to see what triggers your binging/overeating. Write down as much detail as possible - where you were, what you ate, what time it was, what you were feeling, etc. Review your journal and you will soon work out what triggers an episode and can then try to avoid it.
You've had a bad day, and you feel like you want to clean out your cupboards and the sweet/biscuit/snack isle at the local shop by way of your stomach? We often overeat/binge to avoid feeling stressed, unhappy, angry, lonely or if we are trying to avoid thinking of a problem. Resist the urge by grabbing your trusty journal and write down what you are feeling and what is upsetting you. Is it a problem you can solve or something that you can't do anything about? If there is something you can do, what is it? If you can express and acknowledge these feeling out in the open, you won't need to try and make them go away by losing yourself in food.
If you don't feel up to facing your feelings just yet - try making a list (well before your binge meltdown) of other activities that you enjoy and then engaging in one of these activities until the urge to binge retreats.
*Reduce those cravings
Keep you blood sugar level. Don't skip meals as you then tend to overcompensate later by eating a lot of the wrong stuff. Instead try to eat several (6 - 8) small meals a day. Try to include protein, fat and fiber as they help you feel fuller for longer and also keeps your blood sugar levels, um, level. To provide the protein and (good) fats you can include, for instance, nuts (raw nuts are best), seeds, avocado,low fat cheese, olive or flax seed oil To provide fiber, try to include bran, fruits (especially apples and pears), vegetables, wholewheat bread, nuts and seeds, etc. Try to avoid too much sugar or refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, rice or pasta) as these will give you a nice high followed, shortly after by a very nasty low, which will again lead you to crave everything in sight and within reach. If you eat several small meals a day as described above, there is no harm in having a sweet treat occasionally. I found it helpful to buy chocolate or other treats in small sizes and one treat at a time (if you buy a whole bag of small portion treats, you will soon have an empty bag and several wrappers littering the floor, and no memory of where the treats went- so buying one treat at a time is best). You can then have your treat guilt free and really enjoy it. Amazingly enough (in my personal experience), just knowing that you have a treat stashed away, which you can have guilt free, will also tremendously reduce your craving for it.
*Exercise your blues away
Try to get more active, even if just two or three times a week. Exercise improves your self-esteem, self confidence and sense of well-being. Regular activity may also reduce depression and anxiety and improve your mood. Start slow - but do it on a regular basis. Set small goals for yourself that are easy to attain, like going for a walk twice a week. The feeling of accomplishment when you attain your goal at the end of the week will inspire you to continue with your lifestyle change. It will help you take your power back over your life and over food.
*Quitters never win (so don't quit!)
If you do slip up and have a binge, don't throw your hands up in the air and say "I knew I couldn't do it!". We all have our bad days, but if you persevere, your new way of eating and dealing with your emotions will become a habit and the binge's will become a thing of the past. Be kind to yourself - don't put yourself under too much pressure to be perfect. Remember, you are trying to make a lifestyle change, not just attempt another temporary, demoralizing, certain to fail diet. Don't just focus on trying to lose weight - think of it as a great byproduct to eating healthier and improving your fitness and overall mental health. Try to stay positive - it helps if you have a friend or family member who you can talk to and who can keep the compliments coming once the new you starts to emerge! If you can keep it up for 4 weeks, you will have formed new, healthier habits and will have finally escaped the vicious circle of emotional eating you were in before.
And lastly if you don't want to do it alone, a good organization to join is overeater's anonymous - their website is http://www.oa.org - as they help with all sorts of overeating disorders including emotional overeating and they have groups in countries worldwide.
About the author: After suffering from emotional overeating for years, I have finally hit rock bottem when I saw a photo of myself and had to face up to how overweight I was. As a result I have put into practice the tips I give in this article. It has now been 7 months later and I am still free from binge eating. Best of all I've dropped about 20 kg's (about 44lbs). I hope my article can help other people who also suffer from emotional overeating.
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