Eating is an essential part of our day. We eat for energy, nourishment, enjoyment, and literally can not survive without it. Many people struggle with overeating, whether it is due to eating mindlessly, or feeling they can not leave any food left on their plate. Some of these people fall into a category of emotional eating. How can you tell if this describes you?
We all have different ways of coping with stress. There are people who exercise to relieve stress, some sleep, and others drink alcohol or eat food to cope. If you find that you eat in order to soothe yourself or reduce stress, then this may be an indication that you are struggling with emotional eating.
Stopping any behavior requires understanding when and how it is operating. In order to curb emotional eating, it is imperative for you to get aware of your habits and patterns. One easy tool on the path to curbing emotional eating is to start to keep a food journal.
It isn't necessary to keep a detailed food log if that feels like too much work, but to jot down what you are eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Also, take notice of and write down how you are feeling and what is happening before, during and after a meal or a snack. This will help you start to make important connections between your state of mind and your intake.
When you keep a food journal, you may find out that you are eating a lot more than you realize. It could be extra helpings of cake at a work function, or an extra order of fries at the school cafeteria. At first, you may feel surprised by your behavior. Eating can be a mindless activity, and you might find yourself additionally distracted by other stimuli such as the TV or a phone call. With some practice tuning in and paying attention, you may start to notice that you eat when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or frustrated. Learning about your emotional triggers can help you tune in to when you are more vulnerable to using food to cope.
If you are logging your food intake and continue to feel like you are unsure of how to make any changes in your behaviors, connecting with a nutritionist may be a helpful start. A nutritionist can help you understand appropriate portion sizes and help you continue to develop awareness around your eating habits. In some cases, connecting with a therapist can be very beneficial as well. A therapist can help you make connections to your triggers that prompt you to emotionally eat and help you develop alternative coping skills. For either professional, a food journal is an excellent way for him or her to see patterns and make connections for you that you might not readily be able to see for yourself yet.
Emotional eating is a common habit affecting many people. You are not alone in your struggle, and there are many resources out there to guide you on a path to health. Start by taking the first step and keeping track for yourself!