3 Steps to Eliminate Emotional Eating

Do you eat when you're bored, frustrated, or tired? Do you feel badly about what you're eating? Do your clothes start to feel tight on you even though you've been counting calories?

You might be engaged in emotional eating. This happens when you're in a negative emotional state and impulsivity takes over. 

What can you do to eliminate #emotionaleating?

Step 1: Crisis Management: You need to alter your environment to decrease #temptation. If you were a recovering alcoholic who was attending AA meetings, how would you fare if you left a flask of alcohol in your desk drawer? It would likely make it difficult for you to succeed in your sobriety. There is too much temptation around you and in a moment of weakness, you are likely to succumb to an old habit. To increase your chances of success, comb through your environment for nuggets of temptation and remove them from the scene.

Step 2: Create Structure by Following the 80/20 Rule: Changing old habits is no easy feat. We need to create structure to ensure that we are on the right track. At the same time, we can't expect #perfection. We don't want to deprive ourselves. The goal is to create a system that is somewhat permissible so it is doable while keeping our unnecessary eating to a minimum.

What does this look like?

The answer to this question will vary for everyone. Based on your current situation, you will have to analyze your current behaviors that are problematic. Are you, for instance, someone who skips breakfast and snacks throughout the day? Do you drink coffee or other energy drinks to eliminate food intake? Are you not getting enough sleep? Each of these conditions increases your vulnerability. When we are tired and hungry, we are more likely to let emotion sweep us to the nearest treat. Ensure that you have healthy habits to begin with and you will keep your vulnerability at bay.

What happens when I go on vacation? I want to enjoy myself and indulge.

This is why we follow the 80/20 rule. Think of your time, whether it is daily, weekly, or yearly in this way. If you are following the structure you've created for healthy eating 80 percent of the time, allow yourself to indulge on vacation (for a net of 20 percent of the time). Just remember that you'll need to get back into your healthy routine when you return to the mainland.

Step 3: Behind the Scenes: There is a reason why your instinct is to put something in your mouth when you are feeling a certain way. The more you're able to see what you're doing, the easier it will be to stop yourself from your autopilot behaviors.

To decrease #impulsivity, you will need to increase #mindfulness. Start by creating a daily habit of meditation. It can be as short as 5 minutes a day, but it's a great start. This gives your brain the chance to slow down and think about the consequences of your actions before you react.

When we are impulsive, we go from feeling bored to eating without much thinking. By slowing down, you are pausing to contemplate your actions. Pause and ask yourself "what drives me to do this?" You might discover that you are drawn to eat a candy bar every time your boss walks by your desk, in which case it is because you are feeling anxious. It might be because you are frustrated with your work and want to compensate yourself with a "reward." You may find that you are thinking about a personal matter that you dread dealing with.

Whatever the case may be, by asking what drives you, you can start to make connections between the emotion and the proposed behavior/solution.

Then ask "how will I feel after the fact?" If you are thinking about eating that candy bar, consider how you felt last time you did that. Did you feel gross? Were you upset with yourself for your lack of self-control? What will you likely feel today? Is that really how you want to feel?

Sometimes, we are short-sighted. We look for a quick fix to change our negative emotional state into a more positive one and food is quick and easy.

So what can I substitute for food when I'm in a negative state?

There are a number of different options, all depending on how much time you have, where you are, and what's accessible. Some examples include:

  • Go for a walk

  • Drink a glass fo water

  • Call a friend

  • Do some stretching

  • Splash water on your face

  • Visualize your ideal vacation spot

  • Recall a happy memory

Now you know what to do. The key to keep in mind is how to do it.

What we know about #habits, is old ones take time to change and new ones take time to create. Specifically, we need 21 days for either. That means you need to take the what and run with it for the next three weeks.

Bonus: If there are two elements that will help you the most in this process, they are consistency and kindness. Develop the habit by practicing every day to be mindful and increase self-awareness while decreasing reactivity. And don't beat yourself up if you slip. Remember, when we pause consider our options, it doesn't mean we won't decide to eat the candy bar. It just means we are fully aware of the consequences and are prepared to deal with them.

If you found this helpful or if you know of someone who might benefit from reading this article, please share it with them.

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