How to Stop Emotional Eating… for Good

Article posted in: Lifestyle

Drowning your sorrows in a pint of ice cream is not just a stereotype featured in countless romantic comedies, but an expression of emotional eating, a very real issue faced by many Americans. According to a study by the Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, emotional eating can be defined as overeating in response to an emotional event or negative mood, brought on by stress, anxiety, or depression where food is used as a coping mechanism to self-medicate in order to receive temporary relief. Some experts even conclude that emotional eating accounts for 75 percent of all overeating.

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Harvard Health Publications explores the notion that our urge to emotional eat is rooted in our biology. The research points towards the adrenal gland as a contributor to stress eating. When triggered in stressful situations, it releases cortisol that increases appetite. If an individual is in an on-going stressful state, they are more inclined to eat fatty, sugary foods proven to impede activity in the sectors of your brain responsible for stress and emotions, essentially earning them the title of “comfort foods.” So if you feel yourself caving to a craving when emotions are high, follow these steps to quell emotional eating.

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Use cognitive reappraisal strategies. This theory suggests that an individual’s unique evaluation of a situation determines the significance of the event regardless of the actual act, placing the importance on the reaction not the event. If you adopt reappraisal strategies to identifying your response and downgrade the significance placed on the event, you will change the way you respond to stress, taking away its power over your emotional equilibrium.

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Practice Mindfulness. Awareness is key to addressing emotional triggers. In high stress situations, take a step back, breath deep, and assess your responses to learn what caused them and how to improve. Mindfulness can include quiet reflection, meditation, and exercises of the mind and body like yoga.

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Remove temptations. Common sense tells us to remove unhealthy trigger foods from your house. You will be much less likely to put in the effort of going to the store for a quick fix than you would be to just walk into the kitchen and grab something.

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Replace emotional eating with a calming activity. One of the most effective ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. There are countless ways to calm yourself when emotions run high. Susan Albers, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, offers many alternatives to coping without food that include engaging in medicinal laughter, reaching out to your support system, sipping hot tea, and massaging the tension away. In addition, exercise always helps to clear the mind and put events in proper perspective.