The first step to stop emotional eating is to identify the triggers – the feelings, places or situations that make you turn for the comfort of food. Emotional eating is not only linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive ones such as celebrating a happy event or rewarding yourself for achieving a goal.
We discussed earlier the main causes for emotional eating, including stress, boredom or childhood habits. Another common cause is social influences – you may overeat in social situation because your friends or family members encourage you to do so and you find yourself go along with the group.
It is recommended to keep a diary of your emotional eating. Every time you overeat or reach for comfort food, take a minute to figure out what caused the urge and write it down together with what you wanted to eat and what you felt during and after you eat.
As soon as you identify the triggers of your emotional eating, you can then identify healthier ways to feed your feelings. However, you cannot control your eating habits for very long, if you are unable to manage your emotions away from food. You need conscious control over your eating habits to prevent your emotions from hijacking the process, demanding an immediate food.
It is not enough to understand emotional eating and its triggers, although it is very important, but you need alternatives to food that you can resort to for emotional fulfillment. If you are lonely or depressed, play with your dog or cat or call someone who can make you feel better.
If you are anxious, take a brisk walk or squeeze a stress ball. If you are bored, watch a nice show or movie, read a book or turn to an activity you enjoy.