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Emotional Eating

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Sometimes the biggest change you can make is in your head.

You’ve got a healthy eating plan, you’re eating mostly real whole food, eating enough…but you can’t quite shake feelings of deprivation, of wanting more…or any other emotional state that leads you to abandon your weight management goal.

Perhaps some or all situations are familiar to you:

  • Someone brings in cupcakes to work and you get caught up in cravings and urges to eat them even though you know they aren’t healthy.
  • You smell your mom’s home cooking and want to eat more than you’d planned even though you’re not hungry (and it’s not Thanksgiving!).
  • You’ve had a really stressful day and you’re anxious/upset/frustrated and think eating something will make you feel better.
  • You’re out with friends who seem to eat whatever they want and you feel it’s unfair that you’ve got to manage your weight.

In these and similar situations it can be helpful to notice your thoughts. If you end up eating unproductively, it can be useful to take some time to reflect on your experience. Note especially the content of the thoughts and what triggered your actions. You can have thoughts about eating unproductively but it is a choice to actually do it.

Ellen is following a healthy eating plan to lose weight. She mostly chooses real, whole food and isn’t overly restrictive with her food intake: most of the time she’s not physically hungry. But at night, after dinner, when she is sitting and watching tv with her family she regularly has an urge to eat more and it is especially strong when others around her are eating tortilla chips. Ellen used to eat a lot of tortilla chips, especially when she was bored at night. She knows they are processed foods and her goal is to focus on choosing real whole foods. Sometimes Ellen gets caught up in her cravings and ends up eating a lot of chips, or something else. Ellen is not actually hungry and her eating is driven by her emotions.

There are quite a few strategies to apply to this situation to help Ellen avoid emotional eating. One is to change her internal dialogue. This can help her develop a more expansive mindset towards food, her feelings, and herself.

Ellen might be thinking “It’s too hard to want food and not have it! It’s so unfair that my family can eat chips and I have to limit my food right now!”

When she recognizes getting caught up in the negative thoughts and feelings that usually push her to eat unproductively, she can instead be more expansive with her thinking. A more helpful thought would be: “I can have strong urges to eat and I can also tolerate those urges so I’ll feel good in the morning for keeping my commitment to myself.”

You can have urges and cravings and a desire to eat unproductively and you can also not act on those urges.

As a weight loss coach, I can help you figure out the most challenging situations for you and how to overcome your personal roadblocks. If coaching is something you’re interested, get more info here.




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