Emotional eating can often be the culprit for maintaining healthy lifestyle change. Many people will stick with their plan for days, weeks or even months until things become stressful and then they give in to their emotions by turning to cake or some other tempting food. America loves to highlight the new diet, but is there a cure for emotional eating?
One study published in the journal American Psychologist reviewed all previous research that tracked dieters for two to five years and found that at least one- to two-thirds of dieters gained all the weight they lost (plus some) within five years. Other studies show that strict dieting triggers people to eat more than those who aren’t on a diet at all, creating a vicious cycle of undereating and overindulging. In other words, if you skip cereal in the morning, come noon you may inhale a cupcake or two without thinking twice.
However, in my experience losing weight isn’t just about physical activity or counting calories. It’s a combination of being mindful of making time for exercise, planning and preparation around food, but more importantly it is being mindful of how you feel when you are and are not eating. In fact, there’s been a surge of programs that promise weight-loss success based on a mindful approach to eating. These programs encourage people to weigh their hunger levels against emotions, such as anxiety, loneliness or anger, to make sure they are eating for the right reasons. So rather than chomping on chips to tame tension or reduce stress, you can learn to calm your body and mind with meditation and deep breathing. Mindfulness gives people a better sense of control over food and makes eating a more comfortable experience.
Yoga or meditation practice can be a wonderful start to becoming more present in your day and more present in your body. The same techniques you use to stay focused and breathe through a challenging pose during yoga class can come in handy when you’re in the kitchen or a restaurant. Since yoga practitioners feel more in tune with their bodies, they are responsive to their body’s sensations – including hunger and satiety. When you’re more aware of why you’re eating or not eating, you could lose weight almost by accident.
I work with many clients on the topic of emotional eating and one practice I recommend is to do a mini-meditation before meals and even throughout the day to get in touch with how you are feeling. This tool is effective because the next time you are having a craving, you can sit with what is really there. I suggested this exercise to a client and the time she had a craving, she drove into a restaurant’s parking lot and sat in her car for 40 minutes. She realized that she had never given her unhappiness a name. That day she realized she was lonely and that a large order of fries wouldn’t make that feeling go away.”