The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. – Mother Theresa
There really are only 5 things you need to do to stop emotional eating.
When you’ve gotten to the point that you just can’t do it anymore, it’s time to change the situation.
You know emotional eating is more than just calming anxiety. There’s something more that you need to live your life with peace, fulfillment and health.
When you take the steps below you’ll be well on your way to becoming a Conscious Eater and emotional eating will be in the past.
Acknowledging your body’s needs is a pathway toward a better relationship with yourself. You get to know more about what your needs are and experiment on how best to meet them. You get to know your limitations and the possibilities for your life. Most of all you get to learn about what you need to take better care of yourself.
1. Eat when you’re hungry.
Courage is a kind of salvation. – Plato
I know, this sounds like a total oversimplification, but how many times do you deny yourself food?
It could be that you don’t eat at all or that you don’t allow yourself to eat certain foods.
If your body needs food for energy, there is just no replacing food. You can distract yourself and delay eating for only so long.
Your hunger signals may go quiet, for a while, but you can be sure that they will come back and you won’t be able to ignore them!
Eat a balanced meal. It’s great if the craving is for a balanced meal or snack since you’re taking care of both needs at once!
Choose what you eat wisely so that you’re getting both the physical nourishment your body needs and the satisfaction your mind and heart need too.
Sometimes you will eat purely for fuel. We all lead busy lives and sometimes food is merely a means to an end—putting more fuel in the engine so you can keep going.
Food is also an important way people experience pleasure. If what you eat isn’t pleasurable on some level, most of the time, you will be left wanting, unsatisfied.
At least once a day, eat for fuel as well as for the experience of pleasure.
2. Be present.
The point of power is always in the present moment. –Louise L. Hay
Do just one thing while eating.
When you’re driving, watching t.v., working on the computer, playing a game on your iPad, reading, etc. you’re unable to really be aware of what you’re eating, if you enjoy it, if you’re hungry for food, when you’ve had enough, etc.
The distraction is one way of disconnecting from feelings of guilt or shame about what you’re eating, how you’re eating it, how you feel about your body and yourself.
Distracted eating can be more of a statement about your relationship with yourself and the need for self-compassion and honoring your need and desire for nourishment.
Mindful eating is one tool you can use to pay attention in the moment to the taste, texture, aroma, colors, etc. of the food you’re eating.
When you eat mindfully, you can make assessments about your relationship with food and how you respect your body.
3. Identify your feelings.
The best way out is always through. ― Robert Frost
Calm anxiety before eating, rather than eating to calm anxiety. Easier said than done, right?
This can be tricky since hunger makes anxiety worse. Anxiety can also be one of the early signs of hunger. It quickly gets complicated.
Our ancestors needed to be on the lookout for food, they might have been a little edgy about it, so when it was available they would find it and eat. Although food is all abundant these days, when hunger is ignored this early survival mechanism kicks in, you may become a little edgy too.
Help yourself to slow down. Do your best anxiety-reducing techniques, a few deep breaths, a little calming yoga, a short mindfulness meditation, 2-5 minutes or so, and then eat a balanced meal or snack. The food will wait.
Worry is one of the most frequent feelings that leads to emotional eating. Eating is something to do, it takes your mind off of the issue and depending on the food, your brain will be stimulated to release calming brain chemicals.
The way through this is to identify the worry, pinpoint its cause and do what you can to address the situation.
Sometimes this means making an action plan and other times it means reassuring yourself and creating a peaceful environment when you’ve done all you can.
Increase your awareness of the feelings you experience most often. Emotional awareness is your own personal guide for preventing emotional eating.
When you know what’s going on inside, you have options for better self-care. Emotional eating is no longer a distraction from what’s really bothering you, you know and you have a choice in how you manage yourself.
4. Leave morality out of food selection.
Having a healthy relationship with food means you are not morally superior or inferior based on your eating choices. ― Evelyn Tribole
Food is not sinful! How many foods are called sinfully delicious?
How many times have you heard, usually at dessert time, “we’re being so bad tonight?”
What if we accepted that our bodies enjoy pleasurable experiences like eating good food?
Acceptance in the fullest sense means honoring your desire for pleasurable experiences with food, non-judgmentally.
When you accept that you’re an eater who likes good food, you open up the possibilities to accept times when you need to eat purely for fuel, knowing that you will eat more enjoyable food soon.
Sometimes we need to eat for fuel only. You have a big meeting at two o’clock and it’s important to have a balanced lunch at noon, so you’re fueled, thinking clearly and on your game.
Sometimes you eat just for pleasure. Think about birthday cake or special foods you only have at holiday celebrations. These foods and the ritual of eating them symbolize the importance of the moment.
Foods have different nutritional value, not different moral value. Eat well and enjoy.
5. Seek connection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. – Brene Brown
Emotional eating can be the motivator for re-connecting with someone, a memory, thought, feeling, etc.
When you have a craving for a specific food, is it the memory or person you want to connect with and is the food a way to make it happen.
Emotional eating is the pathway to the relationship you want to experience. The problem is that the emotional eating can’t help you connect in the way you want and need to connect with others or yourself.
Increasing your awareness of emotional eating and the feelings that led you there is the way to move toward what you need. The awareness can help you re-focus from the food obsession to the relationship and you can get your needs met.
These simple five things will get you so much further down the road to stop emotional eating than any diet ever could. You have the answers you need right inside you. My hope is that the few tools above will help you discover them!