Stress, anxiety or sadness push us to continual nibbling: discover how to overcome this impulse to eat compulsively.
Emotional eating is that uncontrollable impulse that pushes us to open the fridge or cupboard and continually peck at anything available, with a definite preference for snacks and unhealthy food, without ever feeling sated. In effect, the biggest difficulty in controlling this impulse comes from the fact that it is not hunger that pushes us, but the need to satisfy a negative emotional state by means of food, such as boredom, dissatisfaction, anger or unhappiness.
The root of emotional eating stems from a mix of emotional states and the need to eat: eating becomes such a strong response to emotional discomfort. In some cases the problem can lead to obesity and have roots in a state of depression: if we suspect that we are experiencing dysfunctional eating behavior, it is advisable to consult a doctor who will know how to evaluate the situation and suggest insights and the most appropriate approach.
In most cases, luckily, we are dealing with a much less serious condition, connected to stress, difficulties in everyday life and passing situations. However, it is a good idea to learn to keep control over emotional eating, to avoid gaining weight and bad eating habits, which can be complicated to get rid of. There are, fortunately, some do-it-yourself strategies that are effective and can be used by all.
1 – Snacks. A mid-morning and mid-afternoon healthy snack such as yogurt with dried fruit, a piece of fruit or a herbal/fruit tea with a few tea biscuits, is useful for combating an empty stomach and for not becoming too hungry by the time you start a meal. After the break, however, let’s keep ourselves busy with an enjoyable activity or by concentrating on work, preventing the mind from wandering to thoughts of more food.
2 – No to candy, desserts and food that is too sweet. Never use them as a appetite-suppressant: food that are very high in sugar cause our bodies to produce more insulin to rebalance the glycemic peak. Our glycemic levels will fall more quickly and we will be hungry again. Overall, the more sweet food we eat, the more we want.
3 – Keep a diary. Note the situations during the day in which you felt beset by the need for emotional eating and the events that you think caused these feelings (an argument at work, a moment of euphoria when celebrating something, the boredom of preparing dinner that pushes you to nibble everything within range). Frame the problem by trying to find the constant element in these behaviors for a period of time, for example for a week: it will be easier to find an adequate response to difficulties.
4 – Take physical exercise. Sport and movement are an excellent way of unloading emotional states and improving mood. And obviously while you are running, or pedaling away on a bicycle, you are far away from possible food temptations.
5 – Distract your mind. Shifting the course of our thoughts is an effective means for “resetting” the mind and distracting it from this false sense of appetite. Keep to hand a book that you like, or imagine a goal for the next weekend, compile a wish list of places you would like to visit, of films to see or friends to meet up with, and note them down on a piece of paper.
6 – Give yourself a reality check. Try to trick an attack of hunger with an opposite flavor to that which you want. For example, bite a piece of lemon or put an ice cube in your mouth: the shock will overcome the hunger.
7 – Learn to love yourself. Emotional eating is often connected to negative feelings about yourself and low self-esteem. Surround yourself with positive people, recall to your mind all the wonderful things you have done and strengthen yourself with positive thinking. And if, despite everything, you have given in to over-eating, do not surrender to the temptation of thinking that now it is done and therefore it is not worth soldiering on for the rest of the day: forget the incident, retake control and march on until evening.
8 – Make the most of supplements. You can find help from substances contained in supplements and herbal/fruit teas: for example, magnesium, golden root and spirulina are rich in vitamins, minerals and vegetable proteins.