The relationship between food and comfort eating or “treat” is one of the strongest bonds we have to work on breaking here in our clinics. So many of us want to lose weight but struggle to change the one thing that is keeping weight on and all due to a need to soothe our moods with food, which is known as emotional eating. As intelligent, logical people we all know there is little sense in accepting temporary pleasure over longer term unhappiness? We know that using food as a treat, a reward or a comfort, threatens healthy eating plans and change. And we know that the key to successful weight loss is to break this bond. And we can confirm here that it is not easy but it is possible to combat emotional eating habits.
The first step is think about why eating makes you feel better. When you feel good eating (comfort eating), does the feeling last? Review the long term feeling of treats.
Then you must actively learn to break the link between the treat and your feelings. For example, the next time you have the urge to comfort or reward yourself with food, try and delay the urge for 15 minutes. Plan this as an experiment to see whether the delay results in an increased need for the food or whether the urge to eat declines. The urge will almost always subside. By doing this you will learn that urges don’t have to be satisfied.
Lastly you need to identify and use other ways of comforting and rewarding yourself at these times. For example, if your weakness is chocolate in the evening, try to distract yourself long enough to identify the reason for the urge or at least until the urge passes. It might be that sitting down with a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate brings a sense of relaxation after a stressful day. If this is the case, perhaps alternative activities such as taking a bath or listening to quiet music might ‘soothe the soul’ just as well as food.
In another situation, having snacks in the evening might simply be a delay tactic to put off chores that need to be done. Once again, identify why you are reaching for food, and see if you can distract yourself with another activity until the urge leaves. A good idea is to list, either on a piece of paper or just mentally, the pros and cons of dealing with an adverse mood or state of mind as opposed to eating to deal with how you are feeling. Food never really alleviates our negative feelings long term.
So, try not to reach for food when you are bored, frustrated, anxious or angry. Try to recognize what mood you are in, and what caused it. Experiment by challenging yourself not to eat for 15 minutes. During that time, find something else that you enjoy doing. Listen to music, take a walk, call a friend, take a bath, check some news on the internet or T.V., do a crossword puzzle, do anything rather than turning to food.
None of this is easy. You must work at it every day. Some days you will be successful, and others you won’t. What is important is that you keep trying, and make a pact with yourself that you will never give up!