Saturday, June 26, 2010
Healing Your Hunger: Addressing Emotional Eating
Most of us have had times when we ate not because we were actually hungry but because we had unmet emotional needs. We sometimes eat when we are sad, anxious, bored, lonely, or even happy. Eating for any reason other than physical hunger is called emotional eating. We often turn to comfort foods such as ice cream, chocolate, cookies, pizza, steak, or chips. An occasional chocolate bar does not harm us but many of us eat high calorie diets and do not exercise. This results in us being overweight or even obese. There are some important strategies, from a mental health perspective, to empower you to have a healthier relationship with food and your body temple.
1. Recognize when you are experiencing emotional hunger versus physical hunger. Emotional hunger is often sudden instead of gradual. It results in a craving for a specific food as opposed to simply the need to eat in general. Additionally emotional eating continues even after your body is physically full and afterward we often feel guilty for what we have eaten.
2. Educate yourself on the negative consequences of being overweight or obese. The consequences include but are not limited to increased depression, eating disorders, body image dissatisfaction, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and low self esteem. In America, being overweight cuts off our lives by approximately five years.
3. It is next important to recognize your eating triggers. What are the situations that result in you engaging in emotional eating? Examples include eating socially to cover feelings of inadequacy, eating to fill the void when one is stressed, bored, angry, tired, or depressed, eating simply because the food is there, eating after a series of negative thoughts about yourself, or excessive eating after you have denied yourself food by skipping meals. These are just a few examples. Each person has to determine for themselves the circumstances, thoughts, and feelings that often precede emotional eating.
4. It is the important to practice using other strategies to handle your issues. One strategy is distraction such as reading, going for a walk, taking a bubble bath, exercising, playing a game, talking to a friend, doing housework, or other pleasurable activities to pass the time. Besides distraction, you may want to also consider meditation, problem solving, and talking about the issue with a counselor or other trusted person.
5. Eliminate or reduce your consumption of high fat foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water.
6. Engage in regular exercise. Over 60% of Americans don’t get sufficient physical exercise. Walk more, go to the gym, exercise in your home, and engage in outdoor physical activity. It is recommended that you exercise 3 – 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. Cut back on sedentary activities such as hours of television, movies, video games, and sitting at a desk all day without any physical activity.
7. Get in environments and around people that are motivating not discouraging or sabotaging.
8. If and when you have a set-back, don’t surrender. Falling off of your program is not a reason to give up totally. Each day is a new opportunity to take care of you: mind, body, and spirit.
Your body temple is sacred. Heal the wounds of the past and present. Take responsibility for your eating and exercise. Choose self care over shame and freedom over food bondage. Yes you can!