This is such a common one and in my experience, a range of feelings can trigger emotional eating; whether we’re angry, anxious, bored, sad, lonely, happy or even excited, we turn to food for comfort. But bingeing is triggered by deprivation, which leads to a vicious cycle and can eventually lead to an ongoing unhealthy relationship with food. In order to free ourselves from the cycle, we need to understand the behavioural causes of emotional eating and empower ourselves with the knowledge to free ourselves from it.
In order to free ourselves from the cycle, we need to understand the behavioural causes of emotional eating and empower ourselves with the knowledge to free ourselves from it.
Do you know what your emotional eating triggers are?
Here, I’ve listed some practices that help with emotional eating:
Give up dieting, restriction and deprivation -
Restricting your food intake puts your body into starvation mode and often leads to bingeing. Overeating and eating out of control is a result of rebelling against the feeling of starvation. In order to free ourselves from the vicious cycle, we need to give up diets for good. Instead of depriving your body of food, it’s time to start nourishing yourself and healing your relationship with nutrition. It’s important that we treat our bodies with love and care, and with this comes making healthier choices, particularly at meal times.
Give yourself permission to eat with joy -
Don’t cloud your meal times or restaurant experiences with negative thoughts such as, ‘This is a bad food’ or ‘there’s too many calories in this’ or ‘I shouldn’t be eating this.’ Too many people view food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and this creates stress within the body and can increase emotional eating. Instead, become a mindful eater who eats with joy, not guilt. It’s so important to sit down, eat slowly and enjoy the eating experience. This can help me to eat mindfully and has strengthened my relationship with food. It also allows us to be aware of how much we are eating as we are in more tune with our body.
Tune into your appetite -
The next time you’re truly hungry, ask yourself: ‘What do I really need?’ and ‘What do I want to eat at this moment?’. Tuning into your body takes practice, but you’ll be surprised at how wise your inner voice really is. Maybe you just need some water, a rest or a walk outside in the fresh air. When you’re feeling hungry, give yourself permission to eat – without guilt. As always just be aware and be mindful of your food choices. You and only you are in control of the food you eat.
Commit to a wholefood diet but leave room for healthy balance -
We are all human and there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ so please release yourself from the pressure to eat perfectly. Changing our perception is the first step in adopting a balanced, mindful approach to food. I believe that the most powerful thing we can do to nourish our bodies is to eat real wholefoods. Every day, choose to eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as organic proteins, gluten-free grains, leafy greens, colourful vegetables, low-sugar fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses. It’s important to ensure every meal is satiating, which reduces emotional eating. I also believe in the 80/20 approach. This means that 80 per cent I eat well and 20 percent of the time, I indulge with joy (holidays, birthdays, Christmas, parties, etc.) Giving yourself permission to indulge every now and then actually strengthens your relationship with food, your control and will power and it reduces the incidence of emotional eating.
Take care of your stress levels -
While stress is inevitable in our modern-day lives, it doesn’t mean we should put our health on the backburner. High amounts of stress affect our adrenal glands, causing them to release higher amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. Try switching off from social media, sleeping early and reducing stress when eating. I also believe it’s important to reduce stress before mealtimes. Before your next meal, put your phone down, turn the TV off and take two big deep breaths before you start eating.