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Stop Emotional Eating

With 24 hours of continuous snow (and still coming), the idea of being stuck at home–and a fully loaded kitchen–is a little daunting.

Will I find myself  wandering to the kitchen numerous times?

Snowed-in or not, at some point in time, you’ve probably fallen victim to undefined urges to eat. Have your eyes ever wanted something that looked good? Your hands wanted entertainment while watching TV? Your ears wanted the crunchiness of chips? Or your mouth wanted the texture of smooth chocolate?

Before you grab it, ask yourself why. "Am I really hungry?"

Have you ever ate because of boredom, anxiousness, anger, or happiness?

Our senses and emotions drive different kinds of hunger. Unaware of their existence, our ability to distinguish real, or belly, hunger from unreal, or emotional, hunger is diminished.

So what can we do–especially on days like this–to stop eating when not “belly” hungry?

  • Break old habits

Why do you have popcorn and soda when watching TV? Chips on game nights? A doughnut when stopping to get coffee?

No matter what your habits are, they are, after-all, habits. Ingrained in your routine, you go about your day without realizing why you had three of those candies in your desk drawer.

Pause. Connect with your belly. Are you really hungry, or is there something else going on?

  • Distract yourself

What can you do when emotional eating kicks in? Make a list of activities that can keep you distracted from food. In mine, I can check my email, read a magazine, call someone, wash my face,  jump jacks, dance, clean, or organize.

Place this list where emotional eating happens the most. Your kitchen? Work space? Family room? It’s your support system. Use it!

  • Give yourself time

Waiting 15 minutes before acting on urges will allow you to get connected with your body. Ask yourself what’s driving it?

If the drive is emotional, it will probably go away.

If it doesn’t, you might be belly hungry. Delaying the immediate reaction, however, affirms to you that real hunger and not emotions is in control. Wouldn’t you feel confident about your ability to make decisions then?

  • Empower yourself

What situations predispose you to emotional eating? Write down what you could say to yourself when emotions take charge.

Here’s what I would tell myself:

“Come on, Nour, you’re not really hungry. You’re stressed out.”
“You’re angry. Just get dressed and go for a walk to clear your mind.”
“You know how it goes, Nour. One bite and you will eat the whole bag. You’re not hungry, a bite won’t add anything.”
“You just had lunch. Do you really want that?”
“Dinner is only half an hour away, Nour. Don’t grab that snack box.”

“You know snacking when watching a movie is just a bad habit, Nour. You’re not hungry.”

Practice your own words so you can say “I’m full” when emotions act up.

Disclaimer: This advice in not meant for anyone dealing with eating disorders. If you suspect that you are, please consult a therapist.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • rebecca subbiah February 6, 2010, 6:33 pm

    great post you poor thing the snow must be so bad there
    oh and I bet you could make the Colombo curry with any meat or fish or just veggie


    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD February 6, 2010, 11:50 pm

      Oh Rebecca I’ve never seen that much snow in my life! It’s very frustrating to be stuck at home… But I’m proud to say I’ve followed my own advice 🙂
      Fish sounds yummy… thanks!