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Overcoming Emotional Eating

Aug 31, 2007
Food has always had an emotional component. We prepare and serve foods to complement a variety of emotions, from comforting the bereaved to celebrating joy to showing our appreciation and love.

It's certainly not wrong to see food as more than fuel for our bodies. It's not wrong to enjoy food for the satisfaction it gives our souls, as well as our stomachs. Food can promote positive feelings by causing feel-good chemical reactions in our brains. And when we cook and serve food to someone, we are providing comfort.

So how can you tell when emotional eating has become a problem?

Emotional Eater Test

When you are unable to experience a range of emotions, whether joy, anxiety, pain or boredom, without turning to food, there may be a problem.

Ask yourself:

Do you frequently use food to cope with certain feelings?

Do you frequently use food to distract yourself from certain feelings?

Do you frequently eat absentmindedly, without realizing how much you have eaten?

Does your emotional eating ever cause you to feel guilty, which has then led to more eating, excessive dieting or purging?

Do you ever feel like you have a distorted relationship with food?

Overcoming Emotional Eating

Emotional eating occurs when food becomes a coping mechanism for emotional stress. And that means that dieting can actually cause more problems than it solves. As an emotional eater, when you are unable to stick with a diet, the impending feelings of guilt are soothed only by more food, which is met by more guilt, more eating, and on it goes.

Here are a few tips to help you overcome emotional eating:

Take the emphasis off eating altogether by learning new coping skills. Find non-food ways to comfort yourself. Make a list of things you can do at a moment's notice that help to lower your stress level. Maybe you can call your best friend, snuggle with your cat, or read a chapter by your favorite author. Practice meditation or read a section of spiritual writings. Do a few Yoga poses. If you feel you must put something in your mouth, reach for a glass of cold water and sip it slowly. Put your attention on how wonderful it feels in your mouth and how it's hydrating your entire body.

Keep a journal. When you feel like eating something and you aren't truly hungry, make some notes. Why are you feeling this way? Did something just happen in your emotional life? Are you sad, lonely or bored? By paying attention to when those urges kick in, you may start to notice what kinds of emotional triggers are causing you to indulge. Also, be on the lookout for particular cravings that correlate with particular emotions. The more you know about the kinds of food you crave and when, the more effective you'll be at finding alternatives.

Focus on maintaining health, instead of dieting. Rather than placing all of the emphasis on calories and mentally labeling foods 'good' or 'bad,' try instead to balance your meal and eat healthy snacks from a variety of food groups. Exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. You may find that your emotions even out when you are taking good care of yourself.

Get help. If you are having trouble getting a handle on your emotional eating, consult a counselor or psychotherapist who has experience with emotional eating issues.

When you are able to feel comfort without turning to food, you will be able to put food in its proper place in your life. Then you can work further on incorporating healthy eating habits into your day.
About the Author
Jamie Jefferson writes for Momscape.com , Susies-Coupons.comand Susies-Travel-Coupons.com where you'll find hand-selected online coupons, coupon codes and travel discounts.
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