Kick Emotional Eating to the Curb

by Annie on March 13, 2008 · 0 comments

in Eating Healthy

A co-worker asked me ‘What is emotional eating? Why does his wife talk about it all the time? Is it just a female thing?’

Emotional eating is when you cannot separate mood from food. Some people eat when they are happy, unhappy, bored, excited, stressed, relaxed, etc. Give me an emotional and there is someone out there who has linked it with food. Those of us with emotional eating issues habitually abuse food because we cannot deal with the emotion. And no, it is not just a female thing.

For some people, the urge to emotional eat pass within a few minutes, once you have learn to recognize the urge to eat and have a backup plan for distraction. Trying to identify the major reasons for your emotional eating is essential for kicking it to the curb. But when willpower fails you, you might want to:

Get your trigger foods out of the house.
I cannot have ice cream or cookies in my house. I keep eating them until they are gone. The best thing to do is to establish physical distance between myself and my trigger food. I go to Baskin Robbins occasionally, but since there is physical distance between me and the ice cream, I can control the urge.

Get physical.
We see people who are runners and habitual exercisers with better moods, less depression, and less anxiety than couch potatoes and mouse potatoes (those of us who spends an extraordinary amount of time in front of a computer). If you have not experienced that positive feeling from a regular exercise routine, then you have not yet worked out long enough. How long is long? It is usually between the 20-40 minutes mark during a session for me depending on the activity I am doing. When I am doing step aerobics, it is closer to 20 minutes. When I go walking with my husband, at a moderate pace where we can hold a conversation, it takes 40 minutes.

For the beginner, I would walk for 10 minutes to begin with. Then add 5 minutes each week until you get to a minimum of 30 minutes, most days of the week. Once you start hitting the 30 minutes mark, 4-5 times a week for a month or two, you will see mood improvements and not want to stop after that.

That is how I got my mother hook on exercise. She got that spring back in her step. By the way, she also gardens. My dad, on the other hand, is a couch potato. From just observing my parents and my grandmother, I am starting to see how exercise can positively influence your body and mood after you are 50. I am convince that good genes will get you to 50, but after that, how you lived your life will be the deciding factor on whether you can stay independent. My car accident two years ago has taught me that independent living is important at any age.

Get some sunlight.
Don’t you sometimes get that feeling of wanting to go outside and play on nice sunny days? Do you remember feeling that when you were a child? Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have found that ultraviolet (UV) light can trigger endorphin production. That explains why some people are addicted to sunbathing even though they know about the dangers of skin cancer. Instead of eating to deal with what you are feeling, try putting on some sunblock and going for a walk (exercise and sunlight – what a good combination!) or just sitting in your backyard for a while.

Talk to a friend.
Having support is important when making any change in your life. Just having a trusted outsider look at things that are causing you distress, might help clear up the confusion or at least make you feel less alone. Try talking to a friend while taking a walk and enjoying the sunshine away from your trigger food (Wow! All four tips in one simple activity!). And yes, I do this at least two times a week with my husband.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

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