Emotional eating


IF THERE is a secret to the mystery of permanent weight loss, it is the complete elimination of what we call “emotional eating.”  If you are like the majority of people who want to lose weight, you almost certainly have struggled long and hard with this issue. One of our  earliest unconscious lessons was that food equaled comfort. You began receiving your earliest emotional messages as an infant, when you learned that being fed made you happy and safe and content, while feeling hungry made your stomach churn and gurgle and caused you to cry. As you grew up, you may have dealt with various personal stresses as well as traumatic experiences by turning to food for comfort and emotional satisfaction. If so, you are not alone.

Emotional overeating is an epidemic in this country. Eliminating all or most of your emotional eating is the most important thing you can do with respect to how you eat, look, live and feel. If you consider yourself an emotional overeater, you must identify your own personal eating triggers. You will explore and embrace their causes so that you can gain conscious control over their self-destructive results. It is time for you to finally break free of that vicious cycle of comforting yourself with fattening food and empty calories.

How can it be eliminated

Anytime you eat because of something you are feeling as opposed to physical hunger, is referred to as emotional eating. This type of eating can occur at any time–at meals, in between meals, at social occasions, or late at night. For many people, emotional eating  is the primary reason they have gained weight in the first place. Are you an emotional eater? Emotional eating is a complex issue, and successfully  eliminating this destructive behavior typically requires you to make several changes to one or more aspects of your life. The need for these changes has probably been obvious to you for quite some time. However, for whatever reason, you have been unable or unwilling to address these issues. By eliminating emotional eating, you will not only achieve true weight loss success but will also be giving yourself a life filled with more health and fulfillment than you could ever imagine. Creating positive change in your life can take hard work, painful soul-searching, patience, perseverance and time. Here are  some tips to begin with in eliminating emotional eating.

Organize your eating

Most people skip breakfast, eat a  moderate to large lunch, snack whenever they feel the urge, eat a very large dinner, eat while watching television in the evening, then cap it all off with a late night snack. This is the perfect prescription for gaining weight. Aside from taking all of the conscious pleasure out of eating, most of the calories eaten this way are consumed at the end of the day. Why is this a problem? Calories eaten earlier in the day can raise your metabolism and your energy level to a much greater extent. Foods eaten late in the day are usually more calorie dense,  and you’re likely to eat more. Instead of being used, these calories are more likely to be stored as fat. Organizing your meals will help you tremendously in identifying any emotional eating. You should do  the following:

Eat a healthy breakfast.

Eat a moderate lunch.

Have a snack in between lunch and dinner.

Eat a moderate dinner.

Eat a second snack only if you’re physically hungry.

Stop eating completely at least two hours before bedtime.

These should be the only times when you eat.  By eating this newly conscious way, your consumption of calories will be distributed throughout the day, maximizing your energy level and your metabolism.

Make eating a conscious activity

So much is accomplished by simply organizing all of your eating within three meals and two snacks and shutting down your eating at least two hours before bedtime. By doing this, you are eliminating much of the unconscious eating that can take place throughout the day.  Eating should be enjoyed. It must also become a conscious act. When it is, you’re naturally more satisfied with it. The event of eating and the quality of that event becomes the focus as opposed to the quantity of food consumed. This is why you should think of your meals and snacks as events or little celebrations. Unconscious eating can become a way of life. Eating in front of the television or eating on the run, denies us the pleasure of eating.

Learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger

Learning to distinguish when physical hunger ends and emotional eating begins is an essential thing you need to do to identify your emotional eating issues and patterns. If you deal with your emotions by using food, you may have actually lost the ability to feel your physical hunger. In order to feel hunger, you must allow yourself to become hungry. Just by being active physically, you will enhance your ability to become physically hungry. Now the challenge will be for you to delay your eating past your normally scheduled mealtime in order for you to experience the actual physical  sensation of hunger. When you first begin to do this, it will no doubt cause feelings of anxiety and stress, physical discomfort, or even pain. These are feelings that typically lead to emotional eating in the first place. These feelings, however, need to be felt and experienced in order for permanent change to occur. Dealing with these feelings and allowing them to help you create changes in your life is your path to ultimate freedom.

Identify the reasons and occasions that you eat due to emotions

The most common reasons for emotional eating are:  boredom, stress, loneliness and filling a void. If boredom is one of the reasons that you frequently use to eat, this is an opportunity to add new dimensions to your life. Anytime that you’re tempted to eat out of boredom, contemplate all of the beneficial things you could be doing at that moment. When you are feeling bored and are tempted to raid the refrigerator, one of the best things you can do instead is to exercise. On the verge of devouring a piece of cake, go out for a long walk, go for a jog or head to the gym.

Our lives are more stressful these days than ever before, and food is one of the most common ways we use to deal with our stress. Whether it’s stress from work, home, children or just  traffic encountered on the way home, stress is part of our lives and it always will be. Exercise is a healthy outlet to deal with that stress when it does creep into your life. Or read a book, see a movie, call a friend, schedule a massage or anything that you enjoy doing.

If you find yourself eating out of loneliness, you need to focus on the real reasons behind why you are eating instead of picking up the phone and calling a friend or family member to chat or making plans to socialize more. When the urge to eat strikes you when you are by yourself and not truly feeling hungry, stop yourself and write down your thoughts. It’s healthy and therapeutic. Get real about your feelings. Let them flow and let them go. Don’t let food take the place of friends.

If eating to fill a void in your life sounds like one of your emotional eating triggers, you must seek out new sources of personal satisfaction and emotional gratification. You must find new activities and relationships that will reinforce your self-esteem and sense of well-being.

TAGS: diet, hunger
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