It happens to the best of us: you open a bag of cookies intending to eat "just one," and suddenly you find yourself holding an empty bag, with no real recollection of scarfing down the whole thing. Or maybe after a tough day at work, you come home and bury your troubles in a deep dish pizza or a pint of ice cream.
Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between your body's true hunger signals and the messy emotional hunger for something much deeper. If you feel caught in an endless cycle of mindless or emotional eating, you can take steps to conquer it. Here are a few suggestions to curb emotional eating and establish healthy habits that nourish you from the inside out.
Ask yourself, 'Am I hungry?' before you eat anything.
This simple question can have a huge impact on your eating behaviour. If you're hungry, by all means have something to eat. But if you're not hungry, see if you can identify exactly what emotion you are feeling. Are you bored? Angry? Frustrated? Stressed? Resentful? Once you can name the emotions that are driving you to eat, you can take steps to deal with them.
Be present with your food.
Take the time to experience your food while you're eating it. This means chewing carefully (and slowly!), appreciating the aroma, noting how your food looks on your plate, including the colours and textures, and how it feels in your mouth (soft, crunchy, spicy, greasy, sweet, rich, bitter, etc.).
Also, don't eat while doing other things. It's hard to pay attention to your food when you're hunched over the computer, watching television, driving, or standing at the kitchen counter. Sit down at a table and make eating your activity.
Nourish your body.
We live in a time when so many of us are overfed yet undernourished. We consume empty calories, excess sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, toxins, artificial flavours and chemicals designed in labs to drive us to eat more. No wonder we're constantly snacking!
A nutrient-dense diet based on whole foods, filled with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, quality protein, vitamins and minerals, will make you feel satisfied and satiated, and reduce the likelihood that you'll reach for a cookie at midnight.
It's hard to snack on sugary sweets or salty foods when they aren't in the house. Raid your pantry and eliminate all of the foods you make a beeline for when your eating is driven by emotion. If you need to snack on something, have healthy options on hand like fruits and pre-cut veggies so if you're eating, at least you're supplying your body with valuable nutrients.
For more information about mindless eating, check out my e-book Stress-Free Eating, which includes more than 50 recipes that can support you when you're feeling panicked.
What are your best tips for handling emotional eating?
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