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How to Eat to Stop Emotional Overeating
When you think of stopping emotional overeating, does it seem like an impossible goal? You’re not alone – many people who suffer from this problem feel imprisoned and helpless. It can seem like you are unable to break free from the overwhelming emotions and habits. But there’s good news – it’s a treatable problem. Being honest with yourself is an important first step. Emotional overeaters tend to judge themselves pretty harshly, but don’t – you’re not an isolated case or some kind of freak.
It’s a sign of strength to seek help!
It means you’ve identified the problem. If you’re struggling with this problem, there are some things you can do to get things under control while you’re seeking professional help. Here are some tips.
Your Grocery List
When an emotional moment hits and you head for the refrigerator or pantry, what kind of foods do you usually go for? Often, emotional overeaters head for high-calorie comfort foods like ice cream, chips, or candy bars. But you can’t eat those things if they are not in your house! Here are some examples of foods to put on your grocery list in place of the ones you may be tempted to buy. (Another tip – buy only the foods on your list. Compulsive buying of food is tempting.)
- Brown rice (instead of white rice)
- Millet (instead of or in addition to rice)
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (rather than canned)
- Low-fat, low-calorie yogurt (rather than ice cream)
- Popcorn kernels for air popping (rather than chips and fatty snacks)
- Lean protein like fish, turkey, and chicken (instead of deli meats and processed meats like hotdogs and bologna)
- Natural, healthy cooking oils like olive and safflower oil (instead of shortening, lard, or unhealthy oils)
Don’t Crash Diet It’s good to be proactive in solving problems, and emotional eating is no exception. If you try to crash diet, you may find yourself eating more after the crash diet is over. So, rather than stopping eating everything you love, try some of these tips.
- Allow yourself to have a dish of frozen yogurt each week as a treat. This approach tends to be easier than just cutting out all frozen treats. You could use this approach with other “naughty” foods, too – it may be easier to resist if you know you are going to have that food on Saturday (or whatever day of the week you choose to have a small treat).
- Boost your nutrition with a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.
- Increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods.
Eat Regular Meals Experts recommend regular mealtimes as a way to combat emotional overeating. If it’s not “time” for food, then you may be better able to hold off on eating until it is time. Also, eating regular meals helps you to be deliberate about your intake of nutritious foods. And finally, having regular meal times tends to make for a more relaxed eating experience, which is the direct opposite of anxiety-driven overeating.
Lifestyle Choices: Learn to Overcome Emotional Overeating
Overcoming emotional overeating can seem overwhelming, and setbacks can be expected. But the good news is, there are lifestyle choices that you can make to help overcome this problem. The keyword is choice – you can choose to follow a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes it helps to break things down into small, specific steps you can take (just trying to lead a “healthier lifestyle” is a bit vague!). Here are some of these specifics. And remember, setbacks and relapses are not unusual.
Don’t beat yourself up; just start fresh tomorrow.
Experts are in general agreement that regular exercise three to five days a week is most beneficial. This exercise should consist of at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (such as vigorous walking, jogging, biking, etc.) followed by some light toning or weight training. Committing to this regimen full-force is not necessarily the best way to go; if you can only exercise once or twice a week, that’s still better than nothing and will hopefully pave the way for more in the future. Exercise is said to relieve emotional overeating in several ways. For one, exercise produces endorphins which are the body’s natural “feel good” hormones. For another, exercise prevents boredom and mindless eating, which is what you might be doing if you weren’t exercising! And finally, exercise will likely boost your self-image, helping to break the cycle of low self-esteem and poor self-image that “feeds” emotional overeating disorder.
Never underestimate the healing power of nature! For those with emotional overeating disorder, choosing to spend more time out in nature can be particularly beneficial. After all, in the natural realm there are no media messages to mess with your self-image, and being in nature connects you to your origins and the origins of food. Some experts theorize that detachment from food and its natural source plays a role in emotional overeating disorder.
Getting involved in nature and exploring and appreciating it can go a long way toward reconnecting with our biologically normal view of food. Maybe you can kill two birds with one stone and do your regular exercise outdoors!