Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Emotional Eating

Many people have emotional struggles when it comes to eating. Dieting itself becomes all the more difficult if you are dependent upon food to "feel better" or to deal with stresses. Many people turn to junk food in times of duress (it's called comfort food for that very reason).

It is important to recognize when you have an unhealthy reliance upon food. This can manifest to where you might feel you need to eat a certain food in order to deal with any type of negative circumstance. Maybe you feel like any celebration requires an abundance of sweets or else no one will have fun. Or even feeling like you could never give up a certain food group. 

"What's the point of living if I can't eat ____?"
That is unhealthy to feel that way about food. Yes, eat food for nutrition  and eat food for enjoyment (to an extent) but if you think you NEED a particular food type, then you should think about why you couldn't  manage without it, even if your health was in jeopardy. 

If you habitually reach for a bag of potato chips each time you come home stressed, or order a pizza when you're feeling overwhelmed,  then you are training yourself that this is how you cope with stress. Obviously,  eating a pizza will never ease your stress. So not only have you not solved it, you also consumed a bunch of unnecessary calories and strengthened  your emotional reliance upon food.
For those trying to lose weight or get healthier, the issue is amplified. Not only do you still have to deal with whatever is emotionally taxing you, but now you have added guilt for "failing" on your diet, as well as lost progress and momentum.

If you have fallen into the same trap I have, where you feel like you need junk food in stressful times, then you should find alternate means of stress relief. You should find ways to regularly cope with stress in the moment, as well as trying to regularly and pre-emptively reduce your stress.

There are a number of in-the-moment coping mechanisms. These can include deep breathing exercises, finding a substitute consumable (sparkling water instead of soda, stick of gum instead of a cookie, maybe even a protein bar instead of a candy bar), writing out your feelings, listening to relaxing music, and going for a quick walk. Experiment with a few and find out if these help you when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Many in-the-moment coping mechanisms can also serve as regular stress relievers whenever you may use them. Regular exercise, writing in a journal and meditation are all great forms of stress relief and can enhance your day to day stress level. If you speak with a therapist or a trusted loved one you may also find yourself feeling better.

In any case, try to understand why you are feeling bad, stressed, or emotional; work on that problem. Don't exacerbate it by binging on ice cream.

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