When you’re stressed, bored or upset, do you find yourself reaching for sugary or fatty foods to help you cope? Many people – especially women – turn to food during times of emotional distress. Emotional eating may well make you feel more positive in the short term but it’s not the most positive way to react. Here is how to avoid comfort food eating, which will benefit all areas of your life, not just your waistline.
How To Avoid Comfort Food Eating
Why It’s Bad
Most of the time, comfort eating involves foods that are rich in fat and sugar so they’re almost definitely going to do damage to your waistline unless you’re doing enough exercise to burn off the calories. This can create a vicious circle in which you feel bad or guilty about eating comfort foods and this prompts you to eat some more to cope with these feelings.
Eating the ‘wrong’ type of foods can also lead to a spike in blood sugar levels, which may give you some energy in the short term but can lead you to ‘crash’ afterwards and make you feel worse than you did before. This can also compound the vicious cycle.
Foods that are high in fat, salt and/or sugar are well-known for being bad for your health so you could be setting yourself up for lifestyle-related conditions such as high blood pressure.
How to Stop Comfort Eating
If comfort eating is a habit that you frequently fall back on to try to make yourself feel better, it can be hard to know how to break the cycle. It can be done though, and here are some tips to help you overcome emotional eating.
- Look At Your Reasons. Most people indulge in emotional eating for particular reasons such as when you’re stressed, bored or upset. It can be helpful to keep a diary recording when you engage in emotional eating and how you were feeling at the time so that you can spot the pattern(s) behind your indulgences.
- Decide If You’re Really Hungry. Sometimes, you may think that you’re hungry but this may not actually be the case. Before you head for the fridge or cupboard, ask yourself whether you’re genuinely hungry or not. If your stomach isn’t actually rumbling, you may not really be hungry. If you suspect that you’re bored rather than hungry, distract yourself and see if you’re still hungry afterwards.
- Tackle Your Stress. The stress hormone, cortisol, is thought to encourage cravings for sweet or salty foods so you may find that you want these kind of foods when you’re stressed or under pressure. If stress is a big factor behind your emotional eating, take steps to reduce your stress levels. This can include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga or getting professional help through counseling.
- Do Some Exercise. Instead of aiming for a short-lived boost from comfort foods, get a natural high from exercise. This encourages the release of mood-boosting endorphins, which can give you the same effect but without the calories and slump in mood often associated with comfort eating.
- Get Enough Sleep. If you’re not sleeping properly, you may find yourself snacking more to boost your energy levels.
- Trash It. If all else fails, stop keeping unhealthy treats in the house. Willpower is often compromised when you’re stressed or upset so if you’re not sure whether you can resist the temptation, make sure that they’re not in your cupboards at all. That way, there’s no possibility of falling off the wagon. On a similar note, try not to do your food shopping when you’re feeling stressed or upset as you’re much more likely to stock up on unhealthy treats.
- Stock Up On Healthy ‘Treats’. If you’re still struggling to curb emotional eating, swap comfort treats for healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit or raw vegetables so that you can still snack without the downsides of high-fat, high-salt or high-sugar indulgences.