Emotional eating can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Sometimes the strongest cravings hit when you’re at your lowest emotionally. In a difficult moment of life, or the day after a stress, a conflict, boredom, a strong emotion. You then turn to food for comfort, consciously or unconsciously, when you can’t cope with a difficult problem.
Emotional cravings often lead to overeating, especially too many high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods. The good news is that if you’ve identified this inclination in yourself, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track. That of stabilizing your weight or losing weight.
How the weight cycle works related to your emotions
Emotional eating pushes eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, and loneliness. Major life events or, more often, everyday hassles can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and sabotage your weight loss efforts. These triggers can include:
- Relationship conflicts
- Work or other stressors
- Financial pressures
- Health problems
Although some people eat less when emotionally strong, more often than not, if you are emotionally distressed, you turn impulsively or frenziedly to fatty or rich foods without even enjoying them.
In fact, your emotions can become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically choose a sugary treat whenever you’re angry or stressed without thinking about what you’re doing.
Food also serves as a distraction. If you’re worried about an upcoming event or rehashing a conflict, you can focus on comfort food instead of coping with the painful situation.
Whatever emotions cause you to overeat, the end result is often the same. The effect is temporary, the emotions come back, and then you probably carry the added burden of guilt for losing your balanced diet or weight loss goal. It can also lead to an unhealthy cycle, your emotions drive you to overeat, you fight to get back on your weight loss plan, you feel bad and you overeat again.
How do you get back on track?
When negative emotions threaten to trigger an emotional eating crisis, you can take steps to control cravings. To help stop emotional eating, try these tips:
Keep a food diary
Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you feel when you eat, and how hungry you are. Over time, you can see patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.
Tame your stress
If stress is contributing to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing or heart coherence.
Check the reality of your hunger
Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate a few hours ago, you’re probably not hungry. Give your desire time to pass.
You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you don’t have a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.
Instead of snacking when you’re not hungry, substitute a healthier behavior. Take a walk, garden, watch a movie, play with your cat, listen to music, read, surf the Internet or call a friend.
Don’t keep comfort foods that are hard to resist in your house. And if you’re feeling angry, put off going to the grocery store around the corner until you’ve put your emotions in check.
If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a healthy snack, such as fresh fruit, nuts, hazelnuts, almonds. Or try low-calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.