4 Steps to Ending Emotional Eating

August 18, 2007 by  
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By Larina Kase

Okay, I admit it. I’m an emotional eater.

People are often surprised when they hear me say this because I’m so into the psychology of weight loss. But it really isn’t that big of a revelation. The truth is, we’re all emotional eaters. It’s human nature. I’m not going to try to make you never eat in response to an emotion again. I will, however, help you to keep emotional eating from interfering with your fitness and weight loss goals.

Emotional eating is completely normal but it can become a major problem. When we eat in response to our emotions, we’re more likely to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food. And we’re actually less likely to enjoy the food because we’re so preoccupied by our own emotions.

Here are four steps to breaking the habit of emotional eating.

Step #1: Identify the Connection

Before you can change anything, you need to learn what emotions are associated with craving and eating which foods. For instance, you may notice that you are likely to eat potato chips or French fries whenever you are bored or lonely.

The best way to identify your connections is to carefully observe what happens. When you’re stressed out, do you head over to the vending machine for peanut M & Ms? Do you stop to get a super-sized order of fries at your favorite fast food restaurant?

Play detective and track your tendencies. The only way to change a habit is to recognize it!

Step #2: Manage Your Emotions

Once you know what emotions are causing what eating patterns for you, you can work on better managing those emotions. First, come up with strategies to reduce the emotion itself. If depression makes you head for a pint of ice cream, you can read some self-help books on dealing with depression and begin an exercise program (exercise is known to reduce depression). If your emotions are severe, it’s a good idea to get meet with a therapist to see if counseling can help you.

Second, you can find something else to do (instead of eating) when the emotion occurs. This can also help you reduce the intensity of your emotion. For example, if you know that you are prone to making poor food choices whenever you are bored, create a list of strategies to do at the first sign of boredom, such as: read your favorite magazine, call your sister or a friend, go for a walk, go shopping, lift weights, etc. Have this list with you at all times.

Step #3: Control Your Environment

Once you know that you inhale chocolate whenever you’re stressed, you can regulate the environment to make it more difficult to do so. If you have a stressful job, do not keep a bag of chocolates in your desk drawer. This seems obvious but it’s amazing how much we do it anyway. We come up with all kinds of excuses to enable ourselves to have junk food around. If you must have chocolate at work, bring one piece to work with you to control the quantity that you eat.

If you’re eating dinner in the kitchen and it’s easy to keep returning to fridge, change your location. Go into another room and get busy with something else. One of the main reasons that we overeat is because it’s easy to do so. Make it hard to do so—especially when you’re in a mood that leads you to eating.

Step #4: Break the Connections. End the relationship between the emotion and the food by not eating it when you experience the emotion. Each time you crave a brownie when you’re nervous and you DON’T eat a brownie, you weaken the connection and craving. It’ll become easier to ride out the brownie craving without acting on it.

You can also break the connection by eating the opposite type of food. If you associate anxiety with fattening and salty food, instead eat something healthy and sweet, like a piece of fruit.

Often when we’re in a bad mood, we give ourselves “permission” to eat foods that we don’t allow ourselves to eat normally. A solution is to actually allow yourself to eat some of these off limit foods (but not when you’re in a mood that makes you crave them). When you deprive yourself of your favorite foods, you set yourself up for overeating, and you feel miserable and sorry for yourself! When food is enjoyable, healthy, and well balanced, you create lasting lifestyle changes.

When you’re in “a mood” it is best to break the connections. But at other times, instead of depriving yourself, eat the “off limit” foods, just do so in small portions, eat these things infrequently, or make your favorite foods healthy by substituting healthier ingredients.

There you have it—a brief overview of the four steps to ending emotional eating. Implement these suggestions and you’ll not only lose weight and keep it off, but you’ll feel better too.

Dr. Larina Kase is a psychologist and the president of Strength Weight Loss & Wellness. For more resources on ending emotional eating and a free e-course revealing her proprietary STRENGTH model, go to: www.endingemotionaleating.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com/?expert=Larina_Kase

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