How many times have you eaten perfect the first half of the day and then something stressful happens at work, or you get in a disagreement with a family member and you quickly grab a not so healthy snack to help you cope?
You soon realize you have “cheated” on your new way of eating and you are so disappointed in yourself. Well……“I have already messed up today, so I might as well have dessert too”.
Fast forward to the next day….you are still feeling guilt from the bad choices you made the day before, and you are now craving every sugary, high carb food you can get your hands on. You will now spend the next few days, weeks, or months trying to get back on track and detoxing from those foods you thought would make you feel better when you were upset. Was it worth it?
Does this sound familiar?
This is the rollercoaster most of us go through with emotional eating.
Emotional Eating is when we use food and eating to cope with negative emotions such as anger, stress, fear, sadness, and loneliness. For most people it is a way to help themselves feel better TEMPORARILY.
In Southwest Louisiana food is not only used to handle stress, but it is also used as a means to celebrate or reward our achievements. Every occasion seems to be paired with food and alcohol. Think of how your family celebrates birthdays, graduations, Mardi Gras, holidays, even funerals. We eat when we’re happy, sad, stressed, and bored. This is our way of life, and it is detrimental to our health.
Weight loss is hard, and emotional eating plays a major role in why it is so difficult.
Are you an emotional eater?
Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
Do you reward yourself with food?
Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
( List taken from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/emotional-eating.htm)
Ways to overcome your emotional eating:
Recognize that it is a problem.
If a stressful event happens, anticipate your normal reaction of grabbing comfort foods to help you cope. Have a game plan. Keep a carton of bone broth with you. As soon as you feel anxiety or a feeling of depression start heating up your bone broth. The warm savory flavor can be comforting and getting something in your stomach may deter you from automatically grabbing a high carb or sugary snack.
Settle the Stress
Learn some techniques that you can use at that moment to help calm yourself down.
Belly Breathing: Put your hand on your belly. Take deep breaths in… slow, deep, and long. When you inhale concentrate on your hand being pushed out by your belly. When you exhale out, breath through pursed lips and focus on your breathing while letting your belly flatten. Do this several times.
Body Scan: Use deep breathing to help with muscle relaxation. Focus on progressively relaxing one body area at a time. Mentally release tension from each muscle group. Focus on complete body relaxation.
Mindfulness Meditation: Get in a comfortable position. Focus on your body, breathing, and the present moment. Do not let your mind drift to other things. Stay focused on the moment. Engulf yourself into your breathing and relaxation.
Examine Your Hunger
When the desire to eat arises, examine yourself. Do you want to eat out of true hunger? Are you more anxious and trying to calm yourself? Are you bored?
Fight these feelings of boredom or anxiety with another activity. Go for a walk, try some burst exercises, listen to music, or read. Distract yourself or use some physical activity to release endorphins and improve mood.
Keep those unhealthier foods out of your reach. If you have sweets and carby snacks in your home, it will make it more difficult to say no when you are having an emotional moment. Try and keep healthier options nearby. Although it is great to choose healthier options during these moments, try to focus on settling the stress or distracting yourself with activity when the emotions run high. It is best to redirect the current behavior of eating when emotional with stress relieving activities. Although eating healthier options is a step in the right direction, the ultimate goal is to overcome the behavior of emotional eating.
Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.
According to https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469, Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.
It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, any aerobic activity, such as a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike, can contribute to this same feeling.
It reduces negative effects of stress. Exercise can provide stress relief for your body while imitating effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and helping your body and its systems practice working together through those effects. This can also lead to positive effects in your body—including your cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems—by helping protect your body from harmful effects of stress.
It's meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball, a long walk or run, or several laps in the pool, you may often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you stay calm, clear and focused in everything you do.
It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, improve your mood, help you relax, and lower symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.