While food fuels your muscles, it also feeds your feelings. When eating is triggered by an emotion rather than physical hunger, it’s known as “emotional eating” and it comes at a cost to your health if you don’t control it. Emotional eating strikes suddenly and you crave a specific food, such as a “comfort food”. Unlike physical hunger, when you eat emotionally, you continue to eat beyond the point of feeling full.
Curbing Emotional Eating
The solution to emotional eating is to first recognize it and identify a pattern. The next time you encounter one of your emotional eating triggers and are driven to eat, try these four easy steps called the “Stop-Breathe-Reflect-Choose” strategy. It takes just a couple of minutes.
A. Stop – stop what you’re doing. Break the cycle of automatic eating.
B. Breathe – relax and slow down. Take four deep breaths and release any tension as you exhale.
C. Reflect – think before you eat. Ask yourself if you’re physically Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT) or Bored, Anxious, Depressed (BAD). Then note what food you’re craving. This exercise will help you identify whether your need to eat is emotional or physical, which emotions trigger you to eat, and which emotions are associated with particular foods. You’ll start to see a pattern.
D. Choose – choose to eat or cope. You have three choices. You can choose to eat the food. Choose to eat a healthier version of that food or find a non-eating way to cope. With practice, you can take control of your reactions.