Emotional overeating refers to any of a number of eating habits where genuine hunger is not the motivational factor. It is more common among women than men, but men are not immune – especially young men in their teens and twenties. Those who suffer from this disorder associate food with emotion.
If you have emotional overeating tendencies, you’re not alone – many people who suffer from this problem feel imprisoned and helpless. It can seem like you are unable to break free from the overwhelming emotions and habits. But there’s good news – it’s a treatable problem.
Being honest with yourself is an important first step. Emotional overeaters tend to judge themselves pretty harshly, but don’t – you’re not an isolated case or some kind of freak. It’s a sign of strength to seek help! It means you’ve identified the problem.
If you’re struggling with this problem, there are some things you can do to get things under control……Here are some tips…
Your Grocery List
When an emotional moment hits and you head for the refrigerator or pantry, what kind of foods do you usually go for? Often, emotional overeaters head for high-calorie comfort food that are sweet or salty. But you’ll be less likely to eat those things if they are not in your house! Here are some examples of foods to put on your grocery list in place of the ones you may be tempted to buy. (Another tip – buy only the foods on your list. Compulsive buying of food is tempting.)
- *Brown pasta (instead of white pasta)
- *Fresh fruits and vegetables
- *Greek yogurt and frozen berries (rather than ice cream)
- *Popcorn kernels for air popping (rather than chips and fatty snacks)
- *Lean protein like fish, turkey, and chicken (instead of deli meats and processed meats like hot dogs)
- *Natural, healthy cooking oils like olive and coconut oil (instead of shortening, lard, or unhealthy oils)
Don’t Crash Diet
It’s good to be proactive in solving problems, and emotional eating is no exception. If you try to crash diet, you may find yourself eating more after the crash diet is over. So, rather than stopping eating everything you love, try this:
- Allow yourself to have a dish of frozen yogurt each week as a treat. This approach tends to be easier than just cutting out all frozen treats. You could use this approach with other “naughty” foods, too – it may be easier to resist if you know you are going to have that food on Saturday (or whatever day of the week you choose to have a small treat).
- Boost your nutrition with a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement and fish oils (2 large).
- Increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods such as those listed above.
Eat Regular Meals
Experts recommend regular mealtimes as a way to combat emotional overeating. If it’s not “time” for food, then you may be better able to hold off on eating until it is time. Also, eating regular meals helps you to be deliberate about your intake of nutritious foods. And finally, having regular meal times tends to make for a more relaxed eating experience, which is the direct opposite of anxiety-driven overeating. Whatever you do, DON’T skip breakfast. You are setting yourself up for failure if you do. Try making ‘overnight oats’ which are easy and satisfying! (1/4 c dry oats, 1 T chia seed, 1 c milk , 1/2 c yogurt 1 mashed banana. Set overnight)
Get a Support Group
The worst thing you can do is NOT talk about it! Your ego loves that. Instead, find a support group either in person or online, see a counsellor or talk to a friend. The more you speak, the less power you give these thoughts. Joining a group of fitness-minded people in your community is a great way to stay focused on your goals. There is no shame in admitting you are struggling! We have all been there. Hope this helps!