We’ve all been there. If we’re feeling stressed after a hard day at work or down in the dumps after an argument with a loved one, hitting the biscuit jar or opening a packet of crisps is often the easy option to make yourself feel better fast. However, while emotional or stress eating might seem like a quick way to deal with negative emotions, it’s ultimately self-defeating and could actually leave you feeling worse. Instead, try some of these simple, quick-fix techniques from the experts to change your mindset and create a healthier, long-lasting and positive attitude to eating.
ARE YOU AN EMOTIONAL EATER?
Check off everything on this list that applies to you to find out if you are, then discover how to beat it
- • Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
- • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
- • Do you eat to feel better when you are sad, anxious or angry?
- • Do you reward yourself with food?
- • Does food make you feel safe?
- • Do you often eat until you’ve stuffed yourself silly?
In hypnotherapy there’s a technique whereby you imagine eating a whole cake or pizza, explains hypnotherapist and nutritionist Chloe Brotheridge (easywaytochange.co.uk). “When we visualise something, the same areas of the brain are being utilised as if the experience were happening for real. It can be a way of tricking your brain into getting some of the rewards of having eating the item, without actually eating it.” To get the most of the visualisation, use all of your senses – what do you see, feel, taste, smell and hear? Imagine the feeling of chewing and swallowing, the flavours and textures. Wait 10 minutes and re-evaluate your hunger – your cravings should have vanished!
“Grounding techniques are a powerful way to support yourself through heavy emotional times,” says psychologist Susan Albers, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food (£14.99, New Harbinger). “They help to bring you back to the present moment, preventing you from being swept away by your feelings and resorting to mindless eating.” A quick and easy grounding tip is to flip through a magazine or book, choose a passage and then read it backwards to yourself. Start with the last word in the passage and continue until you reach the very first word. Do this with two more passages.
KEEP A MOOD DIARY
“Keeping notes of what you eat and drink in a food and mood diary every day can really help you to focus on what’s working for you and to identify any unhelpful habits and potential areas for change,” explains Kimberly Hoskins, cognitive behavioural therapy specialist and LighterLife counsellor (lighterlife.com). “For a few minutes each day, identify the situations, thoughts and feelings linked for using food for reasons other than physical hunger. This can help you to develop alternative ways for dealing with these circumstances.”
“Emotional Freedom Technique (known as EFT or tapping) is a form of ‘psychological acupressure’ that can help combat negative behavioural patterns such as overeating, explains spiritual healer Gail Love Schock. “Instead of needles, you use fingertips to gently tap various points across the head, face and upper body while repeating a different phrase at each tapping point, starting for example with ‘even though I want to emotionally eat, I deeply and completely love and accept myself’, to bring negative emotions to the surface so you can dispel them for good. To do this, in sequence first tap the ‘karate chop point’ at the side of hand in between the base of your little finger and wrist, then your eyebrow, the side of the same eye, under your eye, under your nose, your chin, your collarbone, under your arm and the top of your head. Tap through each point four times repeating your chosen phrases. Do this everyday for between 21 and 40 days and release yourself from emotional eating once and for all.”
TUNE IN TO YOUR BODY
“For a few minutes every day, check in with your body and notice how it’s feeling and what it really needs,” says Lisa Roukin, healthy eating expert and author (myrelationshipwithfood.com). “Your body will need different foods and nutrients at different times of the day and also at different times of the month. Become clear that you are eating because you need nourishment rather than snacking for comfort or to avoid certain feelings. The more you check in with this, the easier it will be to differentiate between hunger and habit.”
4 REASONS YOU MIGHT BE OVEREATING
Take steps to banish compulsive eating by understanding your triggers
- You’re physically drained
If you let yourself get too tired or too hungry, it sends strong messages to your brain to eat. Not only that, but it also leaves you vulnerable to cravings or urges, so make sure you’re getting enough rest.
- You find it hard to deal with difficult emotions
We often try to avoid negative emotions such as anger, boredom and resentment by finding distractions such as eating. Learn to accept and tolerate challenging feelings and remind yourself that they will pass.
- You have a negative body image
Hating your body is one of the biggest factors when it comes to emotional eating. Learning to love it with all its imperfections and appreciate it for the great job it does is one of the key steps to curbing your cravings.
- You see food as your only pleasure
Seeing food as a reward after a difficult day can lead to the wrong associations. While a family-sized pack of crisps might do the trick temporarily, going for a stressbusting run or cranking up your favourite music and dancing around the sitting room will have a much more lasting – and positive – effect!