Overcoming Emotional Eating
By Cristina Sutter, SportMedBC RunWalk Dietitian
Do you enjoy food and eating in a balanced way? Or do you have strong cravings for certain foods when you are upset, stressed or depressed? We may comfort ourselves with emotional eating when we don’t want to face uncomfortable feelings like anger, anxiety or sadness. This is a common pattern that many of us learned in our youth when we didn’t know how to handle these tough emotions.
Emotional eating does bring comfort and relief to our difficult feelings, so it actually does make us feel better temporarily. However, the relief is short lived and soon we feel guilty for overeating and often beat ourselves up for having lost our self-control. We pledge to start a new diet tomorrow and restrict “forbidden” foods. This strict diet makes us feel deprived and this inevitably results in cravings and overeating at our next vulnerable moment of stress.
To overcome emotional eating, try these strategies to stop this vicious cycle:
- Identify your triggers: Are you feeling tired, bored, sad, stress, anxiety or anger?
- Soothe your emotions without food: Talk to a friend, go for a run/walk, play an instrument, do something creative like art or sewing, do a puzzle, coloring, do a chore or take a bath, read a book, meditate or listen to music. Engage your senses. Keep your hands busy.
- If you have a craving for a “forbidden food,” make a decision to enjoy it without guilt. You will feel satisfied and will be less likely to binge.
- If you do binge, it is important to give yourself compassion and acknowledge that you are stressed. Life is difficult and you need more self-care. Do not beat yourself up.
- Do not start a diet by restricting foods. Instead, try to create regular meals and snacks. Choose foods that you enjoy and nourish you.
Cristina Sutter is a Private Practice Sport Dietitian at Optimal Performance Clinic in Vancouver. For more information, visit cristinasutter.ca.