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Escaping Emotional Eating

Posted May 01 2012 5:49am

I’m an emotional eater. No doubt about that. That’s pretty much why, when I had two broken legs, I ballooned in weight – it’s the way I deal with that stress. It’s also why I’ve always had snacks on standby when PhDing, because – believe it or not – writing a PhD is very much an emotional rollercoaster. One moment you’re in the depths of despair with 80,000 words ahead of you and no ideas; the next, you’ve had the epiphany that makes everything fall into place. (This works the other way too – and it sucks.)

The last few weeks have been manic – I’ve had a particularly busy patch with work, I was getting nowhere with the PhD, had two freelance projects coming to a head, and had deadlines for reviews, and at the weekend, I moved house. Phew. It started off well – I was pretty surprised when I didn’t find myself reaching for the biscuit tin – or even wanting to. Instead I started to run (which was pretty astounding in itself), did a lot of yoga, consumed an unusually large amount of green tea – all with much more positive effects than a box of Milk Tray or something along those lines.

However, over the last week or so I’ve been ill (on top of all that) and I’ll be honest – I’ve wavered a bit. But I’ve suffered for it – it seems to be that every time I eat something I shouldn’t, my body makes sure I’m all too aware of it, with stomach cramps and nausea. Not good. Still, it’s probably for the best – maybe my body’s finally catching up with the fact that the super nutritious, very delicious stuff I’ve been eating is much, much better for me than the pizza that we ate whilst moving house.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that my busy couple of weeks has edged me towards emotional eating, and I’ve had no time to go to the gym because I’ve been either at work, or packing, or moving. Not good. When you’re used to using food as a crutch, trying times can be pretty difficult if you’re trying to eat well – so I thought I’d put together some tips for things to do to avoid emotional eating, as much for my own reference as for yours!

Plan Ahead

Quite often, you can see these stressful periods coming – I’m a big fan of to-do lists, so I’ve usually got a pretty good idea of when it’s all about to go belly up for me. So having plenty of healthy foods around is a good way to start – being able to reach for a handful of cashews rather than a pack of digestives (yes, a pack) means that you feel like you’ve scratched the itch, without ruining all your hard work.

“Count to 10″

I don’t necessarily mean really count to 10 – unless you find that works for you. When you’re about to crack, down tools for a second and have a think about what it is that’s making you want to eat. Are you stressed at work? Wound up with someone? Whatever the problem is – if eating will solve the problem, then by all means go for it. But it probably won’t – it’ll just make you feel good for the first bite, and then bad later on.

Take Some Me Time

I’ve found getting up early and squeezing in half an hour of yoga has a really positive effect on my day – yes, it’s a squeeze, but it helps! Just having a little bit of time that’s devoted to your own wellbeing can make all the difference to how you’re feeling – and making it first thing in the morning means I retain the positive, good mood vibes all day long.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Everybody cheats. As I’ve said before, sometimes you can try everything and still desperately need some chocolate. And that’s fine. But what’s not fine is using that as an excuse to ruin the rest of your day. For instance, “I’ve had a biscuit at 11am, therefore I’ve already ruined the day and can eat a baguette, a bag of crisps, seventeen chocolate bars, a steak, and a bottle of wine.” This logic will get you nowhere except fat. Think of each meal as a fresh start for the next few – if you’ve had a bad breakfast, have a good lunch and dinner, if you’ve had a bad lunch, have a good dinner and breakfast, and so on… That way, you’re always putting the blips behind you and moving on.

Obviously it’s easier said than done when you’re super-busy and stressed out – but every time you make a good choice, rather than a bad one, you’re one step closer to being where you want to be. Now I’m done moving, I’m hoping to make time to blog slightly less erratically – which I’m hoping counts as another positive step for me!

What are your tips for curbing those stress cravings?

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