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emotional eating

How to stay on track this Valentine’s Day

For many of us Valentine’s day can be a tough one, especially if we find ourselves on our own. Days like this can trigger emotional responses we are not even always aware of ourselves. Many of us turn to food to relieve stress or cope with unpleasant emotions such as exhaustion, sadness, loneliness or boredom.

Emotional eating revolves around eating food to satisfy an emotional craving rather than a physical hunger. While for a split second the joy of food may lift our mood, the fact is, for most of us we actually feel worse after eating, riddled with guilt and left feeling powerless.

No matter how powerless you feel over your emotions, taking back your control with regard to food can be done. There are several ways to differentiate emotional hunger from physical hunger.

Do you crave specific foods? The craving of foods that are usually classed as “comfort” foods such as sugar and fat-rich snacks is a common indicator of emotional eating. In comparison to when you’re starving, naturally you will generally eat anything, healthy food included.

Is your hunger fueled by a sudden urge? Emotional hunger is often a rapid response set off by a feeling or trigger that demands instant satisfaction, this is in stark contrast to physical hunger which will slowly creep up on you.

No matter what you eat you never feel satisfied. When it comes to emotional eating no matter how much you have you never feel quite satisfied. When you eat in response to physical hunger you do however reach a stage of satiety where you know you have had enough.

Do you feel guilty, shameful or regretful after you eat? This is a telltale sign of emotional eating and stems from the fact that deep down you know the food won’t heal the feeling you’re trying to subside.

Overcoming Emotional Eating

Diets so often fail because they only address the nutritional side of the problem, ignoring the underlying psychological reasons over eating may by occurring. Understanding your triggers is the first step towards overcoming your emotional desire to eat. Focusing on other means by which you can fulfil yourself emotionally is the next.

If you’re stressed: Feeling stressed and over tired can cause the body to produce increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As a physiological response to cortisol the body triggers cravings for salty, sweet and fried foods to give you a burst of pleasure and energy. Instead try taking a long bath or shower, lighting some candles and going to bed early. There are some great books and apps on meditation to help you unwind and sleep better, reach for one of these instead of food.

If you’re depressed, lonely or anxious: Exercise is clinically proven to be more effective in the treatment of depression than medication. Go for a light walk or join a sports class or engage with an arts group to help meet people. Having a pet to interact with at home is also a fabulous distraction, a great companion for comfort when you’re feeling low.

If you’re bored: Focus your energy on something that makes you happy, take your dog for a walk, join a dance class or watch a funny movie. Go and visit friends or relatives, making plans to fill your time in a productive manner will help reduce the time you have to feel bored.

Eat Mindfully

Learning to eat mindfully will not only help your waistline but your head too. Following a few small steps can help you reconnect with food and form healthy habits.

Eat when you’re hungry: Start by drinking some water, often we confuse thirst with hunger so make sure you know what your body needs. Then when you truly are hungry sit down to eat before you reach the next level of hunger and become ravenous.

Tune in to your food: Don’t eat on the couch or have the tv or a book in front of you. Try sit down at a table with no distractions while you eat, this will help you focus on how you feel while eating and enable you to sense when you’re full. You will start to reconnect with the tastes, smells and textures of food in turn enjoying it more.

Slow and steady: Start with a small portion of food. Chew and eat slowly, it takes time for your stomach to register food so allow it the chance to do so. The slower you eat the more likely you will feel full before finishing what’s on your plate.

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