How to overcome emotional eating

Emotional eating is a common issue, especially with people who are looking to lose weight and it can be a complex issue depending on the reasons.

Some people may not even be aware of their emotions and the things that trigger them to reach for the biscuits and other “treats”

Why do we emotionally eat?

We eat for many different reasons other than being hungry. Maybe we’re bored, stressed, tired or just want to treat ourselves to something after a busy week. We can also eat out of celebration, as a reward to “treat” ourselves, especially if we are on a diet and have been “good all week”.

However, one of the main reasons that we eat is during stressful times as sugary, fatty foods generally make us feel good and cause a dopamine release - which triggers the reward response. Also when we are stressed, our bodies produce cortisol which has been shown to increase hunger, especially for sugary, fatty foods.

So how can we overcome this?

If you are looking to change your habits, here are some tips to get you started..

Becoming aware of your emotions in a non-judgemental way is a good start to learning the reasons why you may be overeating and take steps to making alternative choices. It’s also a good idea to keep some healthier alternatives to hand such as popcorn, frozen blueberries, dark chocolate, nuts or peanut butter which can all be a good sweet alternative.

Mindfulness meditations are a great way of becoming more aware of your emotions and can also help you to manage your response to stress. There are many apps available which you can listen to daily to become more aware of your emotions.

Make a list of some activities you can do as an alternative to eating such as listening to music when you are bored, pampering yourself as a reward or after a long week, taking a walk when you are stressed. If you have some activities already written it can be easier to implement them when the emotion arises.

Try to get some good quality sleep - when we are tired we are more susceptible to stress and low energy levels which causes us to reach for sugar to get a quick energy boost.

The next time you find yourself reaching for food, especially a sugary treat, ask yourself if you are actually hungry. If you think you may be hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes to see if you are still hungry as it can be mistaken for thirst.

If you are regularly experiencing strong emotions such as depression it can be a good idea to seek professional help such as talking therapies, CBT, EFT as there can be underlying trauma attached to emotional eating as well.