Have you ever found yourself calm your stress through munching on chips? Have you ever drown your sorrows with a big ice cream sundae? Have you ever escaped boredom through chocolate? If so, you are not alone. We've all done this from time to time. However, these situations needs to be a rare, contained events. If "emotional eating" becomes our usual approach to food, we'll soon need to eat more and more to sooth our panic at our expanding waistlines. We're overweight because we feel bad, and then we feel bad because we're overweight. Yes, it can become a vicious cycle.
As I mentioned in my 12/11/06 post, "The Secondary Gains of Poor Eating", one of the common possible incentives for continuing with poor eating habits is for food to serve as an emotional state changer. In other words, when we don't like how we're feeling, as easy (although temporary) way to try to change those feelings is by eating some "comfort food".
So, how do we control emotional eating? Well, the short answer is to find and swap in a better, healthier way to soothe our upset feelings than through food and eating. Food should be for replenishment and refueling purposes only.
So, here are some other ways to soothe and shift your feelings:
1) Learn and practice healthy relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, etc. A solid resource for such relaxation is " The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook" by Davis, McKay, and Eshelman (2003). Learn and practice these techniques so that you can go to them as needed when the crisis hits.
2) Beef up your social life. A disconnected, lonely, depressed, and/or angry person is a person at risk for emotional eating. And, nothing puts us at risk for such feelings like our relationships being strained. The primary relationships are, in order of priority: spouse/partner, children, parents/extended family, friends, coworkers/ acquaintances, strangers. Initiate contact with these social sources in your life. Repair, nourish, and reconnect with all of the main social relationships in your life, and your emotions will reward you. Call, email, send a card or letter, visit, etc. Apologize regularly. Also, ask for and give forgiveness to others and yourself on a continual basis.
3) Be your own best emotional support system. Be your own best friend. Pamper yourself. Need a break? Take one. Need some better eating, exercise, and sleeping habits? Give yourself these gifts. Need a hobby? Find one and enjoy. Give yourself what you really need in a healthy, balanced way. Remember, if you're not going to treat yourself well, why should anyone else? Furthermore, how or why would you feel good if you don't treat yourself in positive, supportive ways?
There are many other ideas here, but these 3 ideas comprise a healthy start. Enjoy!