Have you ever eaten an entire bag of chips, crackers or cookies? Ever had just a few too many slices of pizza or that pint of ice cream, drink a few too many glasses of wine or cups of coffee, even though your body told you to stop?
Most likely, you weren’t hungry or thirsty but were triggered by some emotion or stress. It wasn’t what you were eating, but “what was eating you” that probably triggered your food choice.
Food is fuel for our bodies, plain and simple. It helps us maintain our weight, gives us needed energy, calories, vitamins and minerals and keeps us alive. If we eat more than our body needs, it will store it as fat or, if exercising, as muscle. Our bodies know what weight is optimal to thrive and maintain its equilibrium.
IDENTIFYING OUR TRIGGERS
But what happens when we get triggered? Processed, high-calorie, fake “food like” products have become our go-to sources for pleasure, comfort and reward, or a filler for plain old boredom or, worse, an addiction. No doubt, food is fun, tasty and a pleasure for many, especially in social settings and times of gift-giving, but for some it is a never-ending battle to find a balance. When I begin working with people, the first thing we talk about is awareness. To become aware is the first step in understanding emotional eating. Once you stop and think about the choices you make as you make them, you can begin to interpret your triggers and understand what brings on emotional eating. One thing to become aware of is what you were feeling at the time—lonely, angry, sad, resentful, depressed, in pain—or was it something else? Maybe you weren’t hungry but looked to food and/or drink to address some uncomfortable thoughts, boredom or to relieve stress.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center offers the following suggestions that identify the difference between emotional eating and physical hunger.
• Emotional hunger—comes on suddenly and needs to be satisfied instantly. Physical hunger occurs gradually and can wait.
• Cravings—When you are eating to fill a void and not an empty stomach, you crave a specific food, such as pizza or ice cream, and only that food will meet your need. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you’re open to options.
• Can’t stop eating—If you’re eating to satisfy an emotional need, you’re more likely to keep eating. When you’re eating because you’re hungry, you’re more likely to stop when you’re full.
• Guilty or gratified—Emotional eating can leave behind feelings of guilt. Eating when you are physically hungry does not.
Recognizing emotional eating is the first step to overcoming it. Becoming aware of why you are eating—emotions, hunger, socializing—means stop before you start and ask, “Am I hungry? Is this the right food for me? Do I need this now?”If you feel you have an emotional eating pattern, now that you know the difference, try building a better relationship with food to keep you inspired and not allow what’s “eating you” to control what you eat.
• Become aware of your triggers. What sets you off?
• Find other ways to entertain and comfort yourself: a hike, an outing with friends, visit a museum, join a 5k run and train with friends.
• Make a food journal and notice the foods that you go to when you’re in that emotional eating phase. Log on to myfitnesspal.com as a support system.
• Realize what effect advertising on TV, radio and in magazines has on our food choices. The power of advertising is huge and they know it! Shut off the TV, take a walk, read a book, or close your eyes and relax with a five-minute meditation.
• Comfort foods don’t need to be unhealthy. Find a healthy comfort food.
• Your memory of food peaks after four bites. To remember that pleasurable experience a week later, just take a few bites and call it quits!
• “Moderation, not elimination” is a helpful mantra to keep on hand. The word “diet” turns most people to excess eating. There is also a time to say “No.”
• Know when it is time to talk to a professional if your obsession with food, drink or your emotional behavior becomes uncontrollable. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for extra support.
Remember, emotional eating is triggered by boredom, stress or high emotions. The key is to become aware and then you will feel a whole lot stronger, healthier and empowered over your food, health and life choices. n
GOOD MORNING GREEN SMOOTHIE
Waking up and starting the day in a healthy way keeps us on the right path, happy, healthy and alive.
1 Apple (cut w/seeds and core)
1 orange (cut and peel removed)
Juice of 1 lg. lemon
Handful of spinach or a kale variety.
Few ice cubes
Add all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little water or coconut water.
Lisa Fallon Mindel HHP, AADP is a qualified holistic health and nutrition Coach as well as a model and triathlete. She counsels people on how to effectively reach their health, nutrition and wellness goals. With her personalized step-by-step program and support, reaching goals is enjoyable and lifelong.