Even though I consider myself to be pretty health-conscious when it comes to diet, I still have a complex emotional relationship with food. Last Monday, I had a really rough day at work (Strike 1!) and came home to a messy apartment (Strike 2!). Then I logged into my bank account online and remembered that it was “student loans week”: the week when a ton of my student loan bills come due. So needless to say my bank account -and my mood!- were drastically depleted (Strike 3!).
My first thought? Order some fried noodles with roasted pork. The thought of all that salty, warm goodness -to be followed by a large glass of red wine- brought me an immediate burst of happiness. What bills? What laundry? What work issues? I’d had a rough day- I deserved it! So there I was, sitting on my couch about to reach for my wallet and my iPhone. What stopped me? Well, a few things:
1. Emotional Eating Actually Makes You Feel Worse
You know that awful feeling you get when you’re looking down at an empty bowl of ice cream, or an empty Chinese food carton or an empty super-sized bag of chips? That “what have I done???!!!” feeling? Yeah, not a good look. I don’t know about you, but I think the worst part of emotional eating is the aftermath. It’s that feeling that stops me in my tracks when I get the urge to pig out.
2. Do Something Relaxing That Doesn’t Involve Food
Sometimes when I’m feeling like I might reach for food to feel better I just try and do something else that I know will relax me. On the Monday in question, I got off my couch and took a long, hot shower. This relaxed me enough that when I got out, I was able to put all those unhealthy food thoughts out of my mind and eat something healthy. Showers work for me, but it might be something different for you. Maybe for you it’s watching your favorite movie. Or -if you’re really good- maybe you’d enjoy going for a walk or a light run. Whatever it is, find something that relaxes you, so that you know what to do when you’re stressed and might reach for food.
3. Call a Friend / Journal
Instead of reaching for a glass of wine or a carton of ice cream- call a friend. Talk to him/her about what’s bothering you. Maybe take a walk to just vent to that person about your problems. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone about what’s bothering you, you can even have a dialogue with yourself by journaling. Getting your feelings out on paper might make you feel better and stave off the need for binge eating.
My (last) two cents
We all struggle with emotional eating/drinking. For me the first step has been to recognize when I’m eating because I’m hungry and when I’m eating because I’m upset/annoyed/[fill in negative emotion here]. Once you’re aware of what’s motivating you to eat, you’re better prepared to control your eating. And of course, if you’re really having a tough time, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy can do more for you than overeating ever can.
***Have you ever struggled with emotional eating? How do you avoid temptation?***
Photo credit: Shape Magazine