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How to Overcome Emotional Eating

Certain life events or times of the year can cause us to eat more than we should. Dieting and counting calories can temporarily aid in weight loss, but many people will fail. What those people don’t realize is that there is something going on within them that goes much deeper than eating too many calories. A big majority of overeaters eat in reaction to emotions, usually to numb or suppress them. For many people, overcoming emotional eating and recognizing the real reasons we reach for food are important steps in conquering overeating.

eatingOne easy step in evaluating our eating habits is to stop and think next time the urge to eat hits. Become aware, and evaluate if the act of reaching for food is due to hunger, or if another feeling is present. We may not be hungry at all, but instead may be feeling bored, anxious, or
sad. One way of numbing emotions we don’t want to (or don’t know how to) face is to reach for food. Alcoholics do the same thing with liquor. Luckily, emotional eating does not present the life-threatening effects that alcoholism does, but it is a bad habit that needs to be broken

Crucial to overcoming emotional eating is the recognition that it is taking place. We must be consciously aware of how we are feeling each and every time we eat. We need to stop and listen to our body to determine if food will really serve its needs at the moment. If we are bored, eating will not fulfill that need. The result of eating to fulfill this boredom is making multiple trips to the fridge, which does keep our body occupied, but not in a healthy manner. Find an enjoyable activity to keep busy with. Good choices are puzzles or other hobbies, like
scrapbooking. Keep your hands busy, though, as simply reading a book will probably not prevent boredom.

If anxiety is an issue, go outside for a brisk walk. Any form of exercise is good for releasing tension and stress. Releasing the anxiety is important. Don’t let it build up in the body where it becomes a dangerous time-bomb. Also, eating to suppress anxiety will only cause more distress when you realize that the food did not help out with the original cause – the anxiousness.

Food is also a big comfort for many people who are sad or depressed. It becomes a friend to rely on and eating releases our “feel good” hormones. However, eating in reaction to sadness does not deal with the cause of the depressed mood, and therefore it will only resurface again
once the feel-good hormones have worn off. To prevent emotional eating due to sadness, try expressing those emotions. Write down your feelings in a personal journal, or call up a friend who has time to lend a shoulder. Find online support groups and when the urge to eat hits, sit
down and post a message to the group.

The most important thing to remember in overcoming emotional eating is to replace the act of eating with an activity that fulfills our body’s actual needs at the moment. Remaining aware of our feelings will allow us to determine what those need are, and help us choose the most
appropriate action to substitute for the problem of emotional eating.

Wendy Betterini

Wendy J. Betterini is a lifestyle and fitness coach in the Pacific Northwest specializing in helping busy moms juggle work, family and wellness. Her interests include running, organic gardening, and writing. She is the mother of three small boys that keep her on her toes! For more great information, please visit Wendy's website at: