Does a big slab of chocolate cake make you feel better after a really bad day? Do you turn to carbs for comfort? It’s common to use food as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad, angry, stressed or tired. But there are better ways than emotional eating to deal with those feelings.
[Note: In the spirit of full transparency, this is my personal take on a blog post created by Dietitians of Canada in honour of Nutrition Month. This post hit close to home with my experience with clients I help with my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You weight loss program, so I knew I had to share it with you].
I often work with clients who identify with this problem. Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking or using food as comfort, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a solution. Plug your problem into their three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food. Here’s an example of how it works.
Emotional Eating: Spot the Problem
Jamie works full-time while raising a family and has a typical busy lifestyle. He turns to food for comfort when he is stressed at work or frustrated at home. He wants to learn better eating habits.
Emotional Eating: Get the Facts
Jamie hears about me. He learns that craving food when he’s stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. We work together to spot the patterns in his behaviour and identify his triggers, such as:
- Craving foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (his weakness is bags of chips - especially at night)
- Eating too much without realizing it
- Feeling even more stress and anxiety after eating too much
Jamie learns about mindful eating as a way to manage his emotional eating habits. Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating using all senses: really seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food. So instead of eating a whole bag of chips when he’s stressed, he can learn to be more mindful of his choice – perhaps eat a smaller portion and enjoy every bite, or choose a more nutritious snack.
Mindful eating can help him become more aware of the reason why he’s eating. It will teach him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he feels full. Jamie learns that with my help, he can become more aware of his emotional and physical responses to food. With practice, he can manage his stress-related eating and pay more attention in the present moment when he’s making food choices.
Instead of turning to comfort food, he can learn to fight stress by doing something he enjoys, such as taking his dog for a walk, playing street hockey with his kids, reading a book or cooking.
Emotional Eating: Seek Support
Jamie finds lots of help from his dietitian - that's me. :)