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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Tackling Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is an issue I think most people struggle with at some point in their life. Whether it's you binging on chocolate after a bad day at the office or something more serious that could lead to an eating disorder.

When I was suffering horribly with depression my relationship with food was definitely an unhealthy one, and I did used to let my emotions take over my eating. I'd go days without eating hardly anything then I'd want to eat everything in sight - chocolate biscuits, cheese on toast, bread smothered in butter, creamy pasta...all the comfort foods. When I'd finished a binge I'd feel disgusting, unhealthy, I'd hate my body, I'd punish myself and then I'd go back to not eating again. It was a vicious circle that was difficult to get out of, it wasn't until I had to take my diet more seriously due to PCOS and coeliac disease that I understood more about food and learnt it wasn't the enemy.

Food is here not only to nourish our body and provide us with energy but it's also here to be enjoyed, you can't do this if you're emotionally eating and it will lead to an unhealthy body and an unhealthy mind. If you eat when you're stressed, go to the fridge when you're upset, feel powerless around food or eat to feel better in your mind then hopefully these tips help you.

1. Keep a food/emotion diary. Normally everyone has different triggers to emotional eating, and a key way to battle this is to recognise exactly what it is. Record your food intake in conjunction with your mood at the time and you may start to see a pattern such as overeating at night due to school or work stress. It's also a good idea to record how you feel after you eat, this way it becomes clear what food is actually helping you and what's making you feel worse.
Once you've identified the problems you can begin to face them, and learn of healthier ways to help your feelings.

2. Eat 3 balanced meals a day. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast, fuelling yourself with a good lunch and finishing the day with a nourishing dinner will really help you. Not only does this keep your blood sugar levels balanced so you don't have a sudden dip and crave sugary foods but it will also keep those happiness levels in the brain steady. If you can get into a routine of eating your meals at the same time each day that's even better!

3. Keep healthy snacks around. If you have healthy alternatives around you'll be less likely to reach for the Mars bar, which will prevent feelings of guilt or shame. I don't necessarily mean it has to be fruit or celery sticks because that won't comfort you, but snacks such as energy balls or granola bars are brilliant.

4. Slow down when you eat. Being mindful as you eat is really important, so turn the TV off and put down your phone. Try and sit quietly at a table with friends or family to really celebrate your food and be more conscious of what you're eating. This should suppress feelings of stress or anxiety too, and your brain will tell you when your tummy is happy and full.

5. Eat wholesome foods. Whole, plant based foods are fabulous mood enhancers and they have the ability to increase happiness hormones in your body as well as providing you with energy. When you eat a wholesome diet you'll feel like you're doing your body so much good and you'll be less likely to experience embossment or guilt at the food you've consumed.

If you're struggling with emotional eating I'm sure those steps will really help you, but also remember to talk to someone about your problem. Letting family & friends know will make you feel less alone but also they'll be able to help you - whether that's by listening to your stresses or going food shopping with you, having someone there who knows what you're tackling will help guide you.
Emotional eating is something so many people face and it can be difficult to break that addictive habit but it can be done. If you have knock-backs that's okay, don't dwell on them or beat yourself up but think of them as part of the journey to recovery and happiness.

Live Happy, Live Healthy


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