TOP STRATEGIES TO STOP EMOTIONAL EATING

This blog is part of a series to help you 1) identify and 2) stop emotional eating.

Today we will discuss 4 strategies to help you stop emotional eating for good. This is a follow up blog. If you haven’t read the previous blog post on ‘How to identify emotional eating‘ you can read it here.

You can take this quiz to determine how often you rely on emotional eating to cope with feelings. 

Here are four top strategies to stop emotional eating: 

(We will discuss each one in detail today)

  1. Taking time out when cravings hit
  2. Take care of your needs
  3. Accepting your feelings
  4. Creating Helpful distractions

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With Jacomie Nel & Carla GerrytsRegistered Dietitians

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STRATEGY 1: TAKING A TIME-OUT WHEN CRAVINGS HIT

Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless.

Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it.

If you can take a moment to pause and reflect when cravings hit, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

Can you put off eating for five minutes? Set a timer. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait.

While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. What are you feeling right now?

What’s going on emotionally?

Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.

WHAT IS IT THAT I REALLY NEED AT THIS MOMENT?

When the time is up, take a moment to ponder if you still want to eat. If your answer is yes, ask yourself, What do I need—at this moment—to deal with my current feelings? Since your body isn’t hungry, you don’t need food. Don’t judge it or determine that you can’t have what you really need.

This useful tool from from Nutrition Cheat Sheets can help you determine how satisfying your meals are. 

STRATEGY 2: TAKE CARE OF YOUR NEEDS

The next question to ask is:

How can I fulfill this need and this feeling without turning to food?

There are many possible answers to this question:

  • If you need to feel a connection, you might speak up and ask for more time with your partner, or you might schedule some time with friends or family.
  • If you need nurturing, you might engage in activities that nurture you, such as painting, hiking, a nap, yoga, or writing in your journal.
  • If you seek pleasure and entertainment, you might plan to go to a movie, play, or concert.
  • If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favourite photo or cherished memento.
  • If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favourite song, squeezing a stress ball, or exercise.
  • If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or sit outside and enjoy nature around you.
  • If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (a hobby- learn to play a musical instrument, scrapbooking etc.)

There are many basic human needs that people often deny, but they are essential for self-care. Make sure your fulfill these basic needs:

  • Enough sleep and rest
  • Sensual pleasure
  • Expression of feelings, in order to be heard, understood, and accepted
  • Intellectual and creative stimulation
  • Comfort and warmth

Self-nurturance goes beyond the basics of self-care. It’s being extra nice to yourself. How often (seldom, occasionally, or regularly) do you allow time for experiences that provide self-nurturance, such as the following?

  • Asking for hugs
  • Playing with pets
  • Listening to some soothing or enjoyable music
  • Reading a book for pleasure
  • Taking a walk in nature
  • Looking at a sunset
  • Buying yourself flowers or another small gift
  • Getting a massage
  • Bubble baths, sauna, or steam
  • Meditating
  • Mindful exercise
  • Dealing with stress

Self-care, nurturance, and compassion are important to being able to cope with your emotions without using food. They require a belief that you have emotional needs and that your needs are important and that you have a right to have them met.

Don’t underestimate the power of – Exercise, Relaxation and Connection.

STRATEGY 3: LEARN TO ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS – EVEN THE BAD ONES

While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating actually comes from feeling powerless over your emotions.

You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.

Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary.

You may fear that, like Pandora’s box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it.

But the truth is when we don’t suppress our emotions; even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention.

To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience.

This can enable you to handle stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating.

STRATEGY 4: CREATE A HELPFUL DISTRACTION TO STOP EMOTIONAL EATING

You might find it odd to see the word distraction in the context of learning to cope with your feelings without using food.

But we need to be practical and realistic. Sometimes we simply just need a break from the pain.

We need to find a nondestructive activity that can give us an alternative to difficult feelings and that might give us some satisfaction, joy, laughter, or a way to rest.

Just as you need to have rest days from physical exercise so your sore muscles can heal, sometimes you may need to have a time-out from your emotions so that your emotional muscles can heal.

There are many activities that can offer distraction when you need it, including:

  • Going to a movie or watching one at home.
  • Putting on some music and dancing.
  • Working on a crossword or jigsaw puzzle, or Sudoku.
  • Reading an absorbing book.
  • Flipping through the pages in a magazine.
  • Playing a game on the computer.
  • Doing a physical activity.
  • Learning a new skill.
  • Do an online course.
  • Do arts and crafts.

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To recap here are four top strategies to stop emotional eating as discussed in this blog post:

  1. Taking time out when cravings hit
  2. Take care of your needs
  3. Accepting your feelings
  4. Creating Helpful distractions

Remember it is an ongoing process and you will have to check in with yourself often and without judgment.

I have created a quiz for you to help you determine how often you rely on emotional eating and how much emotional eating is affecting your life. Click on the button below to go to the quiz.

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