Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions. I believe this is good news. One, it means that if you find yourself eating due to boredom, sadness, stress or depression, you are not alone (so there’s nothing “wrong” with you). Two, it means it is possible to solve the problem and better manage your eating habits and weight. The key is to identify your triggers.
“Food can act like a drug,” says Geneen Roth, the author of Women, Food, and God. “It can take the edge off whatever is going on, similar to the way a drink does for alcoholics. People think to themselves, ‘I may be feeling upset, but at least I get to taste something good.’ The go-to foods of ice cream, chocolate and cookies temporarily raise levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and lower the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Interestingly, Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, surveyed more than 1,000 people and found that participants were most likely to turn to comfort foods when they were happy (86 percent) or when they wanted to reward themselves (74 percent), rather than when they were depressed (39 percent), bored (52 percent), or lonely (39 percent).
Do you have an emotional trigger? Do you base your food choices on your emotions?
The first step you must take is to identify your triggers, those emotions/feelings, environments and/or situations that cause you to reach for food for comfort or approval. Are you eating to avoid feeling sad or lonely? Did something happen at work that is making you feel uncomfortable, or very happy? Do you feel compelled to eat more than usual when out with a large social group? Are you working late to meet a deadline and nervous that you won’t finish the job?
Secondly, when you feel the craving coming on, pause for a few minutes. So often, emotional eating is mindless – you reach for food without even thinking about it. Train yourself to take a deep breath and think about what you are about to do. If you can identify that you are not so hungry, but rather emotional, you give yourself an opportunity to either make a healthier food choice, or engage in another activity.
The ultimate approach to overcome emotional eating is to look at all areas of your life and make them more fulfilling. Then, you can enjoy food for the energy and the nourishment it provides your body and not turn to food for comfort. This can be a very poignant process; not always easy but well worth the effort. Have you been holding yourself back from making changes in certain areas of your life? Now is the time to take control and you will observe a domino effect, with each improvement creating more happiness in each part of your life.
These steps will help you feel more confident and understand more about your relationship to food. If you are concerned about your diet or if your lifestyle is not supporting your health and well-being, Contact me or call 413-282-7286. At Bravo! Wellness, I work with my clients to create manageable lifestyle changes so they are able to achieve their greatest potential in their professional and personal lives. Start living your best life today! I’m here to support you.