Everyone falls into the trap of emotional eating at one time or another. For some of us, it’s more often than we’d like to admit. Emotional eating is when you eat because you want to, not because you’re actually hungry. If you crave certain foods, regularly overeat, or aren’t satisfied even when you’re full, you’re probably an emotional eater. This bad habit can derail your diet, make you gain weight and negatively affect your mood. To avoid emotional eating, follow this advice.
1. Only Eat When You’re Hungry
Listen to the signals your body sends you, and only eat when you’re actually hungry. Real hunger comes from your stomach, whereas emotional hunger comes from a mental craving for a certain food. It may seem like stating the obvious, but the best way to avoid emotional eating is to only eat when your body actually needs food. So ignore the cravings and eat the healthy lunch you packed instead of getting a candy bar from the vending machine.
2. Find Ways to De-Stress
One of the biggest causes of emotional eating is stress. When you’re stressed out, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that makes you crave foods high in sugar and fat, which can give you bursts of energy. Eating those foods can make you feel better in the short term, but worse later on. Instead of indulging, take steps to remove stressful elements from your life, and take up a relaxing hobby like yoga or running to help you deal with life’s stresses. If you can maintain a calm and collected attitude, your body will produce less cortisol, and you’ll be less tempted to eat junk food.
3. Avoid Boredom
Another common reason for emotional eating is boredom. When you have nothing to do, it’s tempting to try to fill that void with food. If you don’t have lots of enjoyable activities to occupy your time, you may be feeling lost or useless, and could be more prone to emotional eating. Take up a hobby, read a book, or spend more time with your friends. Any activity that keeps you from eating more than necessary will help you maintain your mental and physical health.
4. Take Five (or Ten)
If you have a craving, give it five or ten minutes before you act on it. Maybe you want chocolate cake right now, but if you wait a few minutes you might realize it’s a fleeting craving and you can really go without the cake. By waiting before deciding to eat, you’ll give yourself the chance to make a wise decision.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Getting the rest you need is one of the most important parts of maintaining good health. When you don’t sleep enough, your body overproduces a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite. It also decreases production of the hormone leptin, which signals your brain when you’re full. The less sleep you get, the more your body will crave extra food, and the worse your body will get at recognizing when you’ve had enough. Get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health.
6. Find Other Emotional Fulfillment
Eating is a way many of us deal with difficult emotions. If you’re sad, lonely, exhausted or anything else, there are other, less destructive ways to help yourself heal. If you’re lonely, call a friend. If you’re overwhelmed, take a few days off work. If you can channel your emotional issues in other ways besides food, you may be able to avoid emotional eating altogether.
7. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
If you work out regularly, maintain a healthy diet, and keep yourself mentally fulfilled, sudden urges to eat will be easier to control. Learn to recognize your own emotional eating habits, and keep them in mind as your plan your meals. Give yourself a break when you slip up, but don’t stop trying to be the healthiest person you can be.