Emotional Eating BlogMindful Eating Habits

By: Natalie Hagler

We are victims of habits and culture: No matter how strong we think we are, we can be manipulated by our emotions, memories, and patterning over which we feel we have no control. Often we are even unaware of what propels us in a certain direction. In order to change course, we must first become aware of WHY we are making certain choices and make a conscious effort to make change.
Triggers for Emotional Eating:

Do you over-eat or turn to unhealthy choices when you are stressed, anxious, excited, feeling low, or in social situations? Chances are that you are an emotional eater. There are 2 types of emotional eating: mindless and comfort.

Mindless eating means that one’s eating behaviors take place on the subconscious level. Have you ever begun snacking from an open chip bag and finished half of the bag before you even realized it? Or finished what was on your dinner plate and wondered who REALLY ate your dinner? This is one of the ways distracted eaters can overindulge. Here are some studied behaviors that, when applied, have been proven to reduce mindless eating and have resulted in weight loss:

    1. Switch to an 8 inch dinner plate.
    2. Do not eat in front of the television.
    3. Eat salad and veggies first.
    4. Eat a piece of fruit before choosing a salty snack.
    5. Eat a hot breakfast.

Comfort Eating is a way of trying to make ourselves feel better with food. It is a learned behavior that can have real effects on our body and mind. “Carbohydrates set off a series of chemical reactions that ultimately lead to a boost in brain serotonin,” says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., the former director of the Research Program in Women’s Health at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Clinical Research Center. The neurotransmitter serotonin is widely believed to influence brain cells associated with mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior.

Comfort eaters can break the habit by soothing themselves with other means. This is no easy task. Here are some basic, go-to behaviors that can help when you feel stressed, anxious, or even bored!

Caffeine HeadachesAlternatives to Emotional Eating

If you’re depressed or lonely, do something for someone else in need. Make a commitment to regularly volunteer at an animal shelter, a retirement home, or with a local project. Call someone you love or who makes you happy. Get outside and breathe in the fresh air. Get up and go!

If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by squeezing a stress ball, taking a brisk walk or an exercise group fitness class, playing with your pet outside, cleaning out your closet or car.

If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.

If you’re bored, choose a productive activity. Read a non-fiction book, watch a comedy show, go for a hike outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy. Learning something new will keep your brain occupied and help you focus as you age!

Food Diary

One way to effectively begin to change your eating behavior is to document when and what you eat. There are many ways to keep a food diary and there are a number if online resources, basic notebook lists, and daily food logs. For 7 days, write down everything you eat and drink, when you eat, and how much. At the end of the week, take some time to look back over your journal and think about WHY you choose to eat. Was it for fuel or emotion?
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