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Monday, June 30, 2014

6 Ways to Deal with Food Cravings And Emotional Eating

As I sit here right now there is a container of cookies from a local restaurant sitting not 2 feet away from me in the cabinet. I must not lie, at one point in my life I would have eaten every single one without batting an eyelash. For many, many years I have struggled with emotional eating. For many people, in order to win their battles with weight loss, they must first win their battles with emotional eating! I am no different. Everyone starts emotional eating for a different reason, it's unique to you and your situation which I believe is why it's so difficult to conquer. What works for your neighbor or your friend could make you worse!

Personally, I started emotional eating without even noticing. I'm going to blame about 25% of it on having an Italian family where food is our bonding tool. We all cook, we all love to eat, and we love sharing those times together. As a group there is nothing wrong with that, but when I began to take too much comfort in food, that is when the number on the scale began to rise. This began around age 10, and blossomed until I was 15. At about 15 is when I began to really notice how far out of control my weight was but I had no clue how to stop it. So I kept eating, which lead to low self esteem. At the same time, I also began exhibiting signs of depression that continually escalated through college. I do not believe my weight caused my depression, but I know for a fact that it didn't help!

No matter what stage of weight loss you are in, emotional eating can rear it's ugly head and do some damage to your progress. I have in fact had an emotional week, the ill health of a close relative, and my fiancee's car has been totalled in an accident (He is fine, no worries.). Just this week the sadness, fear, and worry have been off the charts. This is PRIME emotional eating territory people. Here I'll share how I deal with it and how you may be able to adapt my methods to work for you.

  1. IDENTIFY and DEAL with your emotions. This is step 1, and it is the most important step. What emotions are driving that need to eat? What are you needing comforting from? The list of possible triggers is endless, the loss of a job, an injury, financial struggles, the death of a loved one. From my experience, emotional eaters don't know any other way of coping with the way they feel and instead eat. Find what you need to do to address your emotions and clear your mind of the stress. Whether you need to cry alone, cry with a trusted friend or family member, talk it out, or seek the help of a mental professional, you need to pull the weed out by the root. Note:*A therapist DOES NOT make you a crazy person, I don't know where this stigma came from but it's false. Perfectly average people can benefit tremendously from therapy. Even if you don't end up seeing one long term, just one session to have someone to talk to in a nonjudgmental setting can boost your success .
  2. Find the foods that are your go to comfort foods, usually high calorie non nutritious foods that we all love, and get them out of your house. If you can't see them, you can't eat them. However, not all of us have that ability. If you cannot rid your house of these things, for whatever reason, have a family member or roommate hide them from you. Any person you live with should be more than thrilled that you are trying to better yourself, if they are not helpful to your process it will hurt your progress.
  3. Stock your home with foods that it is damn near impossible to eat a lot of without exploding. There are an abundance of foods like this! Of course I encourage you to do some food scouting and find some favorites of your own, but for now I'll give you a few of mine! Soup. Soup is the perfect food, I swear. But there's a catch, make it yourself. I know, I know, ain't nobody got time for that. But you really do! You can put any number of wildly healthful things in soup and it tastes amazing. When you make it yourself, you know exactly what's in it. Popcorn. Low cal, ton of fiber. Skip the huge amounts of butter and salt clearly. Vegetables, all the vegetables. Watermelon. Black beans! Can we talk about how great black beans are?! Insanely filling, great texture, can be blended and added to almost anything to thicken and health it up a little.
  4. Stay hydrated. It's been said before but people still aren't listening! Your body doesn't have a way of saying I'm thirsty as opposed to I'm hungry. When you actually feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated. Drink water, teas, and black coffee. I love black coffee just sweetened a tiny bit with stevia, but if you need that creamy texture use a small amount of milk or almond milk. PLEASE be very cautious about drinking too much water, it can be fatal. Meaning you could die. So don't overdo it. As a general rule, take your weight, divide it in half. That number in ounces should be about how much water you ingest each day.
  5. This is your very last resort, your very last option for when you've had the worst month of your life, you've binged on soup, but you crave mac and cheese so much it's all you can think about. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but allow yourself to eat it. If you can find a recipe online for a healthy version of your trigger food, even better! Eat ONE standard portion size of whatever your trigger food is. Eat it slowly, don't scarf it down, make it last as long as you can. Share a slice of cake with your spouse or child, take one piece of pizza and use a fork and knife and cut bite sized pieces. Chew meaningfully, at least 15 times, feel the texture and taste it fully. 
  6.  If you've been good at controlling your eating, do not use food as a reward. That's part of what got you into this mess! Instead do something fun outside the world of food, visit with a good friend, maybe have a glass of wine and chat, go to a museum, a local sporting event, an art gallery, go swimming! Who doesn't love swimming? Fun and exercise. You get where I'm going with this, buy yourself a new pair of shoes, but those shoes better not be chocolate covered.
Now that 5th step might seem like I've lost my mind, but hear out my logic. Emotional eating does not have to be a lifelong problem. If you can be around your trigger comfort foods without eating the whole thing, and having just one serving, you've pretty much won the battle my friend. But by allowing yourself to eat it, it doesn't make that food off limits. I believe no food should ever be totally off limits. It creates even more stress and triggers that emotional eating switch in our brains that puts our willpower in a headlock until it taps out and we end up sitting  on the kitchen on the floor with empty containers strewn around us. That feeling of guilt after a slip-up, especially while we're trying to live a healthier lifestyle, is detrimental and unnecessary. Don't do that to yourself! Just because you ate a little too much ice cream last night doesn't make you a bad person. It means you made a mistake, and as with most mistakes in life, they are unavoidable. The only thing we can control, is how we learn from them.


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