Food is a powerful part of our lives. It provides us with the nourishment our body needs, and gives us a reason to socialize with others. However, when we stop seeing food as fuel for our bodies, the food we eat can quickly become an unhealthy outlet for our emotions. Why are so many break up scenes in films, television shows and books depicted with someone indulging in their favorite treat? Because we are convinced that eating tasty foods will make us feel good, even when we know it’s unhealthy. It’s easy to dismiss the strong drive of emotional eating habits (because everyone eats unhealthy foods at some point), but until you start evaluating why you’re eating something, you may not realize that your food choices are closely tied to your feelings. Simple changes to how you relate to food can help you eat healthier, feel more confident and give you a reason to find a healthy outlet for your emotions.
1. Meal Planning and Preparation
Planning and preparing meals ahead of time does require a bit of prep work, but in the long run it’s worthwhile. Meal planning and preparation means no more hassle over sitting in traffic on your way home from work wondering what you can cook the fastest that might taste good, or spending fifteen minutes of your lunch break trying to decide which fast food sandwich will be the healthiest. If you don’t feel like committing to a set meal, give yourself some options – pack a piece of fruit and nuts to choose from for a snack at work. If you’re stumped on what to make, throw a healthy cooking potluck with your friends and have everyone bring their favorite healthy food to share. Try a nutrient dense superfood as a side dish with your dinner. The more you time you invest in you’re eating, the less likely you are to be tempted by unhealthy foods.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
When you want to feel better about the foods you’re putting into your body, drinking water should be a top priority. It is easy to mistake thirst for hunger and indulge with unhealthy foods. If you’re not drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day, your body isn’t getting the hydration it needs. Our bodies need water to function properly and keep us healthy. Using a refillable water bottle when you’re on the go is a good way to up your water intake. If you’re not used to drinking water all the time or you don’t like the taste of plain water, try making water infusions to add flavor to your water.
3. Have a Support System
Emotional eating can happen when you’re feeling bored, sad, anxious or just about any other emotion. If you find yourself eating because you’re nervous or upset, call a friend or family member to chat. Even if you don’t wan to talk directly about what you’re feeling, keeping yourself busy and having someone to lean on can help you resist the temptation to eat a bag of chips while zoning out while watching your favorite movie.
4. Get Active
If you aren’t already actively exercising, find an exercise that suits your interests, like dancing, snowboarding or hiking. Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, boosts confidence and will help you fill time you may otherwise be using to eat out of boredom. You don’t have to do an intense workout to see health benefits from your activity. Simply going for a walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood and give you more energy. Finding an exercise routine that you enjoy is also a great way to relieve stress, depression, anxiety and other difficult emotions.
5. Treat Yourself
Overcoming emotional eating doesn’t mean you can’t have your favorite ice cream cone every once in a while. If you completely deny yourself of something, it will become that much harder to resist, making you feel guilty when you do give into your craving. This can be just as damaging as emotional eating itself. Eating healthier shouldn’t mean you never get to indulge, it’s about planning ahead and rewarding yourself so you stay on track.
If you’re still struggling to find ways to overcome emotional eating habits, talk to a healthcare professional about what else you can do to help ease your cravings.