This time of year is highly emotional. We are confronted with many different situations that can trigger us into emotional eating. Things like parties, special occasions, stress, fatigue, memories of loved ones and family dynamics. Eating is one of the ways that many of us have learned to deal with all of this. Eating food can distract us from our emotions and at this time of year we have plenty of both making it hard not to overeat. According to MedicineNet, Emotional eating is the practice of consuming large quantities of food — usually “comfort” or junk foods — in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions. Here are some strategies for dealing with emotional eating.
- Get enough sleep: Yes, this is a very busy time of the year with social events and late nights spent shopping, wrapping and cooking. Our sleep is typically one of the first things we sacrifice, but it is very important in helping you cope with our emotions and emotional eating. When we are tired, we are unable to deal as well with the emotions that come up and our bodies crave more junk food too. A double whammy! Stay as close to your daily sleep routine as possible. This can make a big impact on your ability to cope and continue your healthy eating.
- Sit down, be present and chew your food: Your first response to an emotional trigger might be to start eating without even realizing it or to shovel food in just to feel full and comforted. Decide that when you are eating, you will sit down, chew your food and be present. You can ask yourself if you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry. When you are present and aware, you are able to listen to your body’s signals telling you that you are actually hungry or when you have had enough food. It also allows you to make a choice about what you put into your mouth. Even if you have 2 cookies on your plate, you don’t have to eat both. If you were not paying attention you would likely eat both and not even enjoy them.
- Eat your well-balanced GOLO breakfast without fail: When you eat a balanced breakfast (2 proteins, 1 vegetable, 2 carbohydrates and 1 fat) you feel more satisfied and will eat less later on even if you get emotionally triggered. When we eat processed foods, our body becomes hungrier faster and will crave more and more processed foods as well as making us less able to handle any emotional triggers that might pop up. We also don’t want to fall down a slippery slope into a cycle of eating that can be hard to get out of after the holidays.
- Don’t skip meals: Make sure that you eating 3 meals a day. Food is our body’s fuel (energy) We think that it is beneficial to skip a meal if we are going to be attending a special event where “holiday” food will be served and we plan on indulging. Or, we are so busy that we don’t have time to eat. The truth is when we skip a meal, our body can go into an emergency hunt for fuel and our will power to make good healthy choices is diminished. If you are unable to eat 3 meals a day, be sure to have healthy snacks available like a cheese stick or some nuts. This will give your body some energy until you can get to a real balanced meal.
- Take a time out: If you find yourself being emotionally triggered, and you want to reach for food to comfort you, stop and decide to take a time out. Change what you are doing even if it is just for a few minutes. You can take a quick walk, sit for a few minutes and take deep breaths until the emotions pass, call a friend, write your feelings down or better yet – create something! Maybe you like crafts (a really good thing this time of year), maybe drawing or poetry is your thing. If you don’t think you are creative, try an adult coloring book. The key is to recognize the trigger and then do something else to provide comfort instead of using food.
- Practice Self-Compassion: The best thing to do is to practice self-compassion. It is the holidays and you will likely eat more food than you want to at times. We do tend to indulge at least a few times during the holiday season. Be prepared for this, and instead of beating yourself up for failing, congratulate yourself on your effort, and then gently and lovingly try to start again.
Understand that the holidays are only for a short period of time. You will get through it. Just try to enjoy yourself as much as you can and do your best.