Warning! Long blog ahead, but very important topic, so listen up. It’s time to get real with ourselves and if you read until the end, you will find a link to a helpful free download!
So, we congratulate our spouse for their new job/promotion with a nice dinner and bottle of wine. We celebrate birthdays with dinner and cake. We mourn a loved one with a spread of pastas and casseroles. We get through an early morning meeting (or soccer game) with doughnuts. The list goes on and on.
We often indulge in unhealthy food choices as a result of an emotional life event – happy or sad. We all do it, so it’s “normal”, right?
But what happens when beyond these sporadic events, our daily emotions trigger our not-so-great eating habits? Because let’s be real…. When we’re stressed we are not going for handfuls of broccoli to eat.
It’s called emotional eating, AKA stress eating. The root cause of this behavior stems from what I call a “mood trigger” – an emotion that cues your brain to soothe with food. I can picture myself just a couple months ago stress-eating some Cinnamon Toast Crunch in a dark kitchen around 10pm. I remember thinking, “Why am I eating this? I’m not even hungry.”
Or, recently when I hadn’t been to the store, and was tired, but also “starving” so I went for the Easy Mac. Yes, I’m not immune. It happens to me, too.
However, It doesn’t always have to be stress that cues our brain about a craving we have for some unhealthier food options. We can also be bored, sad, frustrated, annoyed, overwhelmed, overloaded, tired, etc.
Let’s define the difference between actually being hungry vs. “hunger” caused by an emotion.
Physical hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs fuel. Our body needs protein, fats and carbohydrates, along with water, to survive. Those grumbles we get in our stomachs, pangs that won’t go away until we eat something – that is physical hunger. That is our body’s way of saying “FEED ME,” and you can usually wait awhile to eat if food is not readily available.
Emotional hunger is when we are not physically hungry for food, but instead we are hungry to fill a void in our life. We feel a need to eat “now” with cravings and impulsive behaviors that often turn into mindless overeating. We try to soothe ourselves with food, looking for a sense of satisfaction.
The crazier part is that the sugars, salts, fats, etc. in our comfort foods produce more dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates reward and pleasure in our brain. But, as we know this only acts as a Band-Aid to temporarily relieve an issue (temporarily being the key word).
Don’t get me wrong – Food should be enjoyed and taste delicious (at least most of the time). But, the purpose of food is really just to give us energy and act as our body’s fuel.
Emotional eating is a real thing. It unfortunately causes many women to be extra hard on themselves, especially when they are also trying to make long-term healthy lifestyle changes and/or lose weight. It causes feelings of guilt, frustration, and shame. It will make you feel like you are spinning your wheels because you become more tired with overeating and many times continue to gain more weight.
Our lives and happiness, however, should not revolve around food. It is a mood-food cycle that has got to be stopped in order for you to find success.
So, what should you do if your mood has become a trigger for an unhealthy eating habit??
A couple tips before you accept that you’ll stop ignoring these emotions. First, remove any comfort food from your house. For me, this is Oreo Cookies. If I’m bored, tired, or stressed, this is what I’ll eat. And not just one, but a whole row.
As a kid my dad and I shared a love for them and so it just became my thing. I remember many of late nights sitting at the table with a glass of milk just dunking them one after another. Usually my old kitty would be sitting on the table trying to get some milk, and I’d always get a kick of out it.
Next, begin by leaving or avoiding the kitchen. Pretend it’s a special club for tummy growling only, whatever it takes… Just don’t step in. Then try one or more of these 6 Comfort Swaps to manage your mood triggers without food that I discuss in my YouTube this week. Check out the VIDEO or keep reading!
6 COMFORT SWAPS TO STOP EMOTIONAL EATING
1. Take a Mindful Walk. Even if you just have 5 minutes, and you have to bundle up in the dead of winter, go outside. Walk around using your senses. Observe the colors and objects you see. Feel the temperature of the air and/or warmth of the sun. Pay attention and feel each step you take, heel-toe, as your feet hit the ground. What do you hear? What do you smell? The purpose is to reset and wake up your mind and body.
2. Mood Trigger Breathing. Inhale a deep breathe in. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale out pursing your lips together like you are blowing something. As you exhale imagine your mood or emotion leaving your body as you blow it away. Repeat for 1 minute or until you feel more relaxed.
3. Body Wake Up. While sitting or standing, squeeze/tighten the tiny muscles of your toes and feet. Then traveling up your body, squeeze/tighten your calf muscles, then your thighs, then your glutes, and so forth working all the way up to your shoulders. Once you made it to the top, reverse the actions back down to your toes. This one is great for when you’re tired.
4. Venting Fake Out. Write or type a letter venting all of your frustrations and emotions. Get it all out there. Don’t hold back. When you are done crumble up the letter, and then smooth the paper back out. Finish it up with a grand finale by tearing it into little pieces and tossing it in the trash. See ya stress!
5. Plan a Get Away. Just having a trip on the books makes both my husband and I feel better. Traveling has always been something we love to do on a regular basis and has become our reset button. So step out of the kitchen and start researching. Even if you can’t afford to go soon, start a board on Pinterest or a “Trips” folder on TripAdvisor and start dreaming.
6. Use Your Hands. If boredom is causing you to eat, do a craft, game or even chore with your hands. Start a puzzle, learn to knit, play solitaire, do a crossword, fold laundry or get a few minutes of fresh air and pull weeds or pick up fallen sticks.
There are all sorts of activities you can do to distract yourself from eating, even as simple as drinking a full glass of water or snuggle with your furry friend. The key is to do a comfort swap that will fulfill your emotional need at the time. That is the reason you are eating, not because you have no willpower to eat healthy.
If you are not sure what that emotion is, get accountability for what you are feeling in a journal. Better yet, I’m setting you up with this FREEBIE Mood Trigger Journal. Time to dive in to what’s really going on.
Let’s get FIRED UPP,