Managing Stress Without Eating
“One day, after interacting with a particularly difficult client on the phone at work, I began snacking without even thinking about it, and about ten minutes later, I realized I hadn’t tasted or appreciated a single thing I had eaten. Not only was I physically uncomfortable because I had eaten so much, but I felt guilty because I had been working so hard to lose weight. ” –Janine S.
Have you ever caught yourself emotionally eating? Emotional eating can be identified in several different ways:
• Eating when you’re stressed, bored, or lonely
• Eating even when you’re already full
• Feeling powerless to control yourself when eating
In order to manage your weight, it’s crucial that you have a way to manage your emotions that doesn’t involve eating. Today, our lesson will focus on strategies that you can use to identify and manage your emotions so that you only eat when you’re physically hungry. You will take away some valuable tools from this lesson that you can begin using with your next meal.
Two Types of Hunger
First, it’s important to recognize that there are two different types of hunger: emotional and physical. Emotional hunger is the one to look out for, as it can lead to emotional eating. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and craves a specific type of comfort food. It often doesn’t result if feeling satisfied or full. Of course, there’s also physical hunger. Physical hunger is a slow buildup of hunger, and it results from the body needing food for energy and function.
It’s helpful to be able to recognize when you feel drawn to food because of emotion. If you’re not sure how to distinguish the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger, check out this article which goes more in-depth and gives specific examples of each. Once you can identify what type of hunger you have, you can take action! Since physical hunger is pretty straightforward, our focus will be on emotional hunger.
Controlling Emotional Hunger
If you have emotional hunger, it’s important to take a minute to identify exactly what you’re feeling. Oftentimes, emotions give us small hints to what is missing in life. If you take time to pause and reflect on those feelings, you can address them. Once you have clarity on what exactly it is that you’re feeling, you can find an alternative to food that can meet your emotional need:
Are you feeling lonely? Take a few minutes to talk to a coworker or schedule a friend date.
Are you feeling stressed? Take a moment to journal or go for a walk.
Are you bored? Find a stimulating activity to do.
Are you craving comfort? Sip hot tea.
Taking a step toward addressing the root issue of your emotion is a tool that will allow you to manage your weight. Next, we will look at another strategy that can be beneficial if you’re an emotional eater.
Being mindful is another tool that you can use to avoid emotional eating. Mindfulness brings your focus to the present and allows you to be in the moment and enjoy the depths of what you are engaging in. Mindful eating is the opposite of emotional eating. Developing the skill of mindful eating will allow you to eat for health and pleasure rather than using food as a coping tool.
Before you eat your next meal today, set the intention to be mindful. Start by taking a minute to relax. When you’re ready to eat, limit the distractions in your environment. Set space aside to focus on your meal, and put away your phone, Facebook, or emails. This will allow you to focus on the meal and enjoy the food. Notice the flavor, texture, and smell of each food that you eat.
Today you learned how to:
• Distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger
• Identify emotions and take action on them instead of engaging in emotional eating
• Be mindful while eating
In our next lesson we will go over how the body breaks down stored fat to use as energy, then begin to develop your plan.
Cheers to your health,
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