Stress, anger, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, fatigue, frustration and helplessness can all become triggers for emotional eating. That’s because you’ve learned to use food to feel better. Even happiness can trigger emotional eating, because we use food to celebrate, too. Food is fuel. It shouldn’t be used as an anesthetic or for comfort. You should be in control; not your emotions.
Think about it this way: If you were at work and feeling stressed or bored, you might be tempted to head to the vending machines and buy a snack and a soda. Giving yourself that freedom would distract you and cover up the sources of your emotion, such as work that is unfulfilling or an employer who is unreasonably demanding. What’s more, the snack would taste good—another comforting distraction. But your problem at work would remain the same once the food was gone, and you’d be on your way to gaining weight, too.
Ask yourself this question when faced with the desire to eat unhealthy food: Will the food I eat now change anything about my situation? Wouldn’t it be better for me to do something that might really solve my problem or help me cope with it?
The good news is that you wouldn’t even be reading this if you weren’t already trying to take control of your life and do away with self-defeating habits—like overeating and eating the wrong foods. That is a huge step. So let yourself feel good about it. Gaining control over your eating habits will not be easy, but you know you can do it! Here are some things to remember on the road to your success:
- Accept that the journey to your best you may be rough. Setbacks may occur. That’s okay. If they do, all is not lost. Not even close. Just renew your commitment and pick up where you left off. Making good habits permanent takes time.
- Try not to dwell on any discomfort you experience—even hunger. Focus on how you will feel when you reach your goal.
- Don’t discount small changes in your behavior, weight, or size. These small changes are signs that lasting, substantial change is possible.
- Eat regular, planned meals and don’t skip meals, because you’ll be tempted to grab high-calorie and processed snacks instead.
Stop and ask yourself these questions before you’re tempted reach for food to comfort you:
- Will my actions make my situation better or worse?
- How will I feel about myself after I eat this food?
- What can I do to not even think about food? Almost anything positive will do: A 10-minute walk, climbing stairs, writing a note to a friend, or playing with a pet.
- If I am going to give in to my craving for food, what can I eat that is HEALTHY?
“We human beings are susceptible to stress because we think that the page of our life stories we are living today is what defines us. We should realize that our stories are evolving and that, a few pages or a few chapters down the road, we will have survived the crisis, and very likely be stronger for it.” —Keith Ablow, MD