Emotional stress can take a toll on our bodies in more ways than one, but one of its most profound effects is its influence on our automatic behaviors – that is – our impulsive responses to stress. Many people rely on food as a source of comfort, but that reliance on food as an outlet can lead to unhealthy weight gain. To avoid toting the additional stress of weight gain to a wearing period of time, there are ways to regain control over emotional eating.
If this sounds like it may apply to you, first find out the trigger of your desire to eat. Is it truly hunger? Do you find your stomach growling or hurting? If not, identify what is causing the impulse to eat by first identifying the emotion you are feeling at present. Once you do that and can pinpoint the source of that emotion, you put yourself back in control.
The next step is to try to embrace the emotion that you are feeling and delay the instant gratification of food. If you know that it is a stressful situation that is causing your hunger, make yourself wait two minutes before making a decision on food. That time will give you the opportunity to make a healthier decision rather than reaching for the fridge. It won’t happen immediately but with time and practice, you’ll develop and strengthen your reserve, and maybe find a healthy alternative that is even more satisfying.
If you’re feeling especially stressed out, try taking a few deep breaths. Focusing on controlled inhalation and exhalation can lessen the intensity of the tension you are experiencing. Deep slow breathing actually elicits a physiological response that slows your heart rate, forcing your mind and body to calm down.
Another tip for avoiding emotional eating is to embrace positive thoughts that are in line with your goals and values. If you find yourself craving a food item, analyze the thought itself and realize that it’s just a fleeting experience that holds no real power over you. With that in mind, look at the feelings of negativity and break them down into parts to recognize that it’s just anxiety that is causing an increase in heartrate and breathing speed.
In line with analyzing your thoughts, take the time to put distance between yourself and those feelings. Recognize that you are having upsetting thoughts and instead of identifying as upset. When you do that, you give yourself freedom to choose your course of action and can avoid impulsive acts arising from those feelings, including unhealthy eating habits.