Hi! Welcome to Fit, Food, and Fun Fridays! Today we’ll talk about how to break free from emotional eating. It’s an issue that plagues many Americans, and it’s a major reason people are overweight. When people are depressed, anxious, angry, or lonely, they turn to food for comfort. The problem is, food doesn’t really fix anything. It’s always temporary, and it can actually lead to more anxiety, depression, and so forth. And when you feel bad, you often want to do things that make you feel better.
One of the best things to do when you feel bad it to exercise, since it releases endorphins, which make you feel good. If you don’t feel like working out, take a long walk outdoors, go to a park and sit on a bench with your dog, or go dancing. Whatever you find enjoyable will help make you control your eating!
If you’ve ever found yourself eating because you’re bored, or because you’re sad, or just because you feel like it, then you’ve experienced Emotional Eating. That’s right, eating due to emotional reasons is a type of disordered eating. It’s one that’s very often overlooked because it’s so common. You might not even realize it’s happening. Many people struggle with emotional eating – and it’s an especially big problem in women.
The emotional eater is often unaware that eating is a coping mechanism. Instead, they believe they eat because they are always hungry. Of course, there is a biological basis for this. The gut controls the part of the brain that regulates appetite. As a result, when you eat foods that you find satisfying emotionally, your gut sends more signals to the brain, which makes you feel more satisfied. As a result, you eat more of those foods and the cycle continues.
Experts believe that up to 75% of overeating may be due to reasons other than physical hunger. If you want to improve your relationship with food, learn to identify and control emotional eating.
Recognize the Signs
1. Understand how emotional eating works. Emotional eating occurs when you use food to manage your feelings, rather than to satisfy your hunger. This can trigger guilt and create a cycle where you eat because you feel bad and feel bad because you eat. Positive feelings can also play a role if you associate food with celebrating.
2. Keep a balanced perspective. It’s okay to take pleasure in food and enjoy sharing it with others. Concerns arise only when emotional eating interferes with your health and well being.
3. Ask yourself if you feel out of control. You may have lost control of your eating habits if you want to make healthier choices but keep backsliding. Be honest with yourself if you resolve to have yogurt for breakfast but wind up stopping off for a bacon sandwich on the way to work.
4. Notice your cravings. A strong desire for specific dishes is a common symptom of emotional eating. If you’re actually hungry, everything on the menu is likely to sound appealing. When you’re depressed over a recent breakup, ice cream may be the only thing you want to order.
5. Evaluate your hunger levels. Another danger sign is eating when you already feel full. Slow down and decide if you really need another helping of mashed potatoes.
6. Consider your family history. The way you eat may be grounded in patterns that started in childhood. Maybe you were rewarded with a homemade cake when you got good grades.
Develop a Healthier Relationship With Food
1. Keep a journal. It’s easier to spot patterns when you write down when and why you eat. You may notice that you snack on potato chips when you’re bored, even though you’ve just eaten a full meal.
2. Substitute healthy foods. Cravings can be used to benefit you if you reach for nutritious alternatives. Homemade pita triangles dipped in olive oil can replace French fries with ketchup. Indulge in fresh fruit when you want dessert.
3. Control portion sizes. Eliminating all your favorite treats can cause a backlash from deprivation. See if a sliver of pie makes you just as happy as a big slice and savor every bite.
4. Seek distractions. Engage in productive activities that will take your mind off your stomach. Go for a walk, read a book, or do some housework.
5. Develop positive coping techniques. Comfort foods deliver only short-term relief. Find more effective methods for managing daily stress, such as meditation, music or physical exercise.
6. Avoid temptation. If you find your favorite cookies to be too irresistible, banish them from your pantry. Choose restaurants that specialize in grilled fish if you have trouble declining fried chicken.
7. Get adequate sleep. Being chronically tired makes you more vulnerable to overeating. Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night. Take a warm bath before bed to raise your body temperature if you have trouble falling asleep.
8. Reward your good behavior. Reinforce the positive changes you make in your behavior. Set realistic goals and praise yourself when you attain them. Buy yourself something special or visit your favorite museum.
9. Seek professional help. If you need more help to change the way you eat, talk with an expert. Counseling may clarify the underlying issues you need to address. Nutritionists can advise you on a diet that will work with your individual lifestyle.
Liberate yourself from emotional eating so you can protect your health and enjoy your food more. These methods will help put you back in control.
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I really wanted to talk about this topic today because the overweight and obesity epidemic is at an all-time high! We are a fat society and it’s killing us prematurely. Not only do I truly believe that you have the power to lose weight to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of obesity so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you lose weight, and maybe reverse some of your chronic diseases. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Check out some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, and reducing stress are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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