Everyone I know has struggled, at one point or another, with overeating. Many battle it every day. Regardless of the frequency, eating more than your body needs is linked to health problems, the most obvious being weight gain. It can also lead to digestive problems, such as gas, bloating and diarrhea.
To face this problem head on, I tell clients to first identify “trigger emotions” (how you feel before you overeat) and jot them down in a food/mood journal. This is one of the best ways to stop emotional eating. Being aware of WHY we reach for food when we’re not hungry is the first step in correcting the pattern. Are you feeling stressed? Anxious? Fearful? Sad? Bored? After you’ve identified emotional triggers, develop a list of alternative behaviors. Here are some suggestions:
1) Occupy the Mouth: Suck on a low-calorie lozenge, such as a MealEnders, instead of reaching for a bag of chips. Sometimes we just want something to keep our mouth and mind occupied.
2) Set a Timer: How long do the cravings last? Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and strive to sit with your feelings and engage in positive self-care behaviors during that time. Watch out for destructive thoughts; that little voice never acknowledges the true amount of time it takes to overeat.
3) Phone a Friend: Go for a walk and call a buddy.
4) Exercise: Go into the living room or outside — jog, do online yoga, hold a plank for two minutes — or longer — anything to get your heart rate up and your mind off food. After no more than 20 minutes the desire for food (if you aren’t really hungry) should subside.
5) Meditate: The app HeadSpace is a fabulous way to calm and clear the mind.
6) Pamper: Give yourself a facial, do your nails…
7) Challenge the Mind: Play a brain game on your phone, like Lumosity.
All of these alternative behaviors can help you learn to stop emotional eating. They will teach you new ways to handle challenging emotions so that you can avoid overeating. Try a few, or all of them, to see what works best for you.