For those of us that view food as a mechanism for coping with our emotions (ie. loneliness, stress, anxiety, and etc), we need to identify what is causing the behaviors in order to change it. We cannot loose weight when we eat to fill a void in our emotional state when we are not hungry.
Identify food and mood
Take a few days (at least one weekday and one weekend) to write down any emotion related eating. On a sheet of paper, put in four columns: Triggers, Behaviors, Consequences, and Action Plan.
Under the Trigger column, write down any emotional triggers that occurred before eating. For example, I was feeling lonely Saturday. My husband was home, but he was in his workshop in the garage and was too busy to talk to me.
Under Behaviors, write down what you did (or ate) to alleviate your emotional trigger. For example, I ate a large bowl of ice cream hoping to pass the time until my husband came back from the garage. Regular readers of my blog know that comfort in ice cream.
Under Consequences, write down feelings and attitudes that followed eating to temporarily improve your mood. For example, my mood temporarily improved, but then I felt guilty because I am trying to loose 20 pounds. I still felt that guilt on Sunday when we went out for brunch.
Under Action Plan, write down some alternatives, besides eating, that you can do instead. Do this at a time when you can step away from the situation to think clearly about what you need to do the next time the emotional trigger occurs. For example, when feeling lonely, I can: 1. call a friend or one of my sisters. 2. log into an internet chat group or participate in a forum. 3. write down what I am feeling in a journal. 4. or visit a friend.
This self evaluation exercise can be quite difficult, especially if you never really given much thought in relating your eating habits with your coping behavior. How much of your planned or unplanned eating is stress related? What are the most problematic situations that trigger emotional eating? How else can you cope with stress or emotions?
Keep the list handy. The next you reach for food when you are stress or anxious, look at your list and find an alternative in your Action Plan instead of eating. You are still making progress if you are able to identify your emotional eating trigger in the midst of eating. At soon as you identify your behavior, you can learn to turn it into a conscious choice. Awareness is the first step to breaking a habit.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by.
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