If you’ve ever ordered dessert when you’re already full, or reached for a pint of ice cream when you’re stressed, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is attempting to use food to boost your mood or feel better.
And using food occasionally as a pick me up, a reward, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, when eating is your main emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to rip open a bag of Oreos whenever you’re upset, or stressed, or bored—you get stuck in an awful pattern that’s bad for both your brain and your body.
Not sure if you are an emotional eater? Answer these questions to discover if you may have a problem.
Emotional Eater Checklist
*Do you always eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
*Do you reward yourself with food?
*Does food feel like a friend?
*Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
Taking Steps to Break the Cycle
Identify Your Triggers. The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for sugary comfort foods? Keep an emotional eating diary. Make note of events or feelings that are happening when you reach for a sugar fix.
Feed Your Emotions in Other Ways. If you’re feeling down, call someone who lifts your spirits. If you’re anxious, take a walk to burn some of that nervous energy. If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of coffee or tea. If you’re bored, change tasks or read something inspiring.
Choose a Healthy Lifestyle. Invest in yourself. When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.