Amongst all the sins of eating, emotional-eating probably ranks among the top. It’s a waste of calories, doesn’t do you or your tastebuds any good, and to top it all off, it’s a diet-killer.
We understand it’s important to love your food, but there’s a difference between eating, and using food as a crutch. Some of us eat when we are stressed, others eat when they’re sad. People eat for a whole host of reasons, but the one common thread of emotional-eaters is that they eat to assuage their emotions and seek stability in food. We use words like “comfort food”, but that’s mostly just window dressing the deeper problem: An emotional dependency on eating.
The good news is that we have some solutions for you to break this diet-killing habit. Now, let’s get down to it!
1. Do the “Broccoli test”
No body likes raw Broccoli. It’s tough and tastes a little weird.
That’s why it’s the perfect litmus test for whether you’re really hungry or not. When you find yourself thinking about food, ask yourself this:
Am I so hungry that I would eat raw broccoli?
If you went “eww”, then you’re not really hungry. Don’t eat! However, if eating raw broccoli starts sounding like a great idea to you, then it’s time for some food in your belly!
2. Find a new focus
People fall back on food because they’re seeking some form of escape. Pleasure is often the source of escape for many of us, and our calorie-rich environment is perfect for encouraging this habit.
Try using focused experiences to take your mind off the concept of food as comfort. There are a whole bunch of things you can do, but we recommend things that require higher levels of focus to take you into a mental zone. Acts that refocus your attention include:
- Chess (with both humans and computers on high difficulty)
- Meditation (more on this later)
- Slow runs
You can tell that a lot of these activities are slow and methodical in nature. The objective is to train your mind to slow down, and check yourself before you react or respond to the impulse to eat.
3. Mindfulness is magic
When it comes to combating stress-eating, cortisol is the enemy. This stress hormone causes you to crave fatty foods, and can contribute to emotional-eating.
Exercise can help, but sometimes, you’ve been beaten down by the day and exercise is really the last thing on your mind. This is the exact moment when mindfulness meditation will save you. You see, mindfulness meditation really forces you to take stock of everything that’s happening in your body right now. It teaches the practitioner to listen to the body while quieting the mind, increasing your self-awareness and helping you catch the moments when you’re about to lapse into emotional eating. It’s also a respite from the world, and doing it before you sleep will help you get into deeper rest cycles.
4. Milestone your meals
Make your main meals the only ones you’ll eat and eliminate snacking for good. Take a good, hard look at your week, and start thinking about when (and even where) you’d like to have your meals every day. Now you’ve got your schedule out, focus on that.
This pre-planning gives you that psychological edge to beat the random food cravings that pop out when you’re under duress. When the food demons do start whispering, all you need to do is to to tell them your next meal time, then go back to what you’re doing. No fuss, no drama.
5. Drop the ball
Yeah, you’ve heard us. Drop the ball once in a while, and eat when you want to. But for a good reason – to understand what triggers you.
Plenty of people complain about the lack of self-control, but letting yourself go every once in a while is the secret to understanding what triggers your emotional-eating. Find out what really triggers you, then actively focus on the fact that you can decide when, where and what you eat.
You want fried chicken after a hard day? Well, recognise the fact that you’re doing it because you’ve had a hard day first. Then decide if you’re able to deal with eating fried chicken after a hard day. Whether you say “Yes” or “No”, you’ve already won because now, you have control. You’ve wrestled control of the eating habit from your impulses, and put that in your conscious thought. It’ll be 100% easier to dictate your own eating habits in a conscious manner.