Eating is an essential part of our day. We eat for energy, nourishment, and pleasure. We can develop complex relationships with food because food plays such an integral role in our health and livelihood. Many people struggle with overeating, whether it is due to eating mindlessly, or feeling that they must finish their plate. Some of these people fall into a category of emotional eating. With the New Year almost here, many people make the resolution to commit to eating healthier, but most people have trouble following through with it.. Here are some tips to better understand emotional eating habits, and how to make some healthy, and hopefully lasting changes for 2018.
1. Understand the difference between “stress” eating and emotional eating. Eating to relieve stress may become an emotional eating issue if it begins to impact your emotional and physical well-being. Eating has a huge psychological component, which is why stress eating can become an unhealthy coping skill. Dieting, a form of restrictive eating, is someone else's version of what you should eat. This disregards the need for satiety—feeling satisfied with what you just ate. Eating food that you enjoy, and learning to become hyper-aware of how much food you are consuming are hallmarks of mindful eating.
2. Keep a food journal. A food journal is a helpful tool to make you more aware of your eating habits. It doesn’t have to be a detailed food log; it can be quick notes on what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If you struggle with overeating, you may find that you are eating a lot more than you realize once you write it down. If you notice that you are overeating, ask yourself what might have been going on in that moment that prompted you to eat that extra piece of cake, for example. Overeating in particular tends to be a mindless activity, and many times we aren't even aware of it. With some practice, you may start to notice you eat when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or frustrated. Learning what your emotional triggers are can help you tune in to when you are more vulnerable to overeating.
3. Reach out for additional support. If you tried logging your food intake, but still feel like you are unsure of how to make changes in your diet or behaviors, consider connecting with a nutritionist. A nutritionist can teach you about healthy portion sizes and help you develop awareness around your eating habits. In some cases, connecting with a therapist who has expertise in eating disorders, or emotional eating issues, can be very beneficial as well. A therapist can help you understand the triggers that prompt you to emotionally eat, and guide you in developing alternative coping skills.
Emotional eating is a common habit that many people grapple with. You are not alone in your struggle, and there are many resources available to guide you on a path to better health. The first step can be daunting, but the benefits of taking control of your eating habits can make a tremendous difference in your overall well-being.