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3 Tips on How to kick your emotional eating Habit

We all have the urge too emotional eat at one point or another. We feel overwhelmed or anxious and turned to our therapist (the pantry) to try and navigate our problems. The issue many people have with emotional eating is it becomes their way of coping with various emotions they have. For me, when I struggled with emotional eating my anxiety would catalyze a binge or overeating episode and I would find myself knee deep in an Oreo package. Even though I knew it wouldn’t help my problem. If you would like to read about my binge eating story then I talk more about it Here

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emotional eating and alcohol can cause one to over eat at the end of the night!
emotional eating after a night out. Alcohol is a common catalyst to get you to emotional eat and over eat on junk foods.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!

Emotional eating and the Brain. What causes you to emotional eat?

Firstly, To better understand why we Emotional eat or turn to food in times of stress, it is best to understand the brain patterns associated with habitual behaviors.

There is something called a “habit loop” and it goes like this: Trigger (emotion), Action (eating), reward (sugar high/procrastination). The habit loop is incredibly addicting as we all know if you are reading this article. The neural pathways in your brain become very strong when you repeat this loop over and over again. This is why it seems hard to stop emotional eating or any other habit. However, it is not impossible to break the loop and free yourself from emotional eating!

In addition, You might be thinking “but I try so hard not to go to the pantry and then cave every time!” there is also a reason for this. The primative brain is located in the center below the prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that doesn’t want to eat for comfort) And is responsible for the urge to eat. When the neurological pathways are strong, then the primitive brain interprets your emotions as a threat. “If you don’t eat then you will die” is esensially what the pimitive brain is thinking. I know, It sounds silly but our brains really aren’t so different from our ancestors 70,000 years.

do you emotionally eat? These 3 tips can help you break your emotional eating habit for good
how to not emotional eat and over eat on your favourite foods? read on to learn my 3 top tips

These are some ways my primitive brain tricked me into emotionally eating many times:

  • picturing myself eating “said food”
  • scanning the cupboards
  • excitement
  • “you had a hard day, you deserve it”
  • “I don’t feel like working, lets eat”
  • “you can restrict tomorrow”

These phrases may resonate with you or you may have some of your own. I would like you to make a list of reoccurring ways your primitive brains get you to emotionally eat. Just making yourself aware is the first powerful step to stopping emotional eating.

How Break the Emotional eating Habit

As I mentioned, the habit loop is a trigger, action, and reward. To break the habit loop, one must make the steps to the reward longer and/or have a punishment for the action. As illistrated bellow:

Emotion >>Eating >>sugar high
Current Habit causing you to emotional eat

Turns into

Emotion >>Distraction >>hide food >>Emotion passes >>reward: watch favorite show
Un-do Habit that can help break the habit of emotional eating

In this process we are aiming to change your coping mechanism and increase the steps it takes to do the unwanted habit. Then reward yourself with something other than food such as a bath, music, or something that makes you feel calm and at peace. Personally, I like to put on a meditation.

the power of habit but ted talks is a great resource to explain more on how habits are formed!

How to cope with Emotions without food

Coping tactic #1: Journaling

Journaling was a great outlet for me. This is where I got my emotions out of my head and onto paper. In addtion to clearing my mind, It also allowed me to alalyze the emotions causing the eating habit. What emotions are you feeling when you over eat? What type of stressors get you to emotionally eat?

So, before you go into the pantry, get out your journal and write down what may have stressed you out during the day, what triggered your anxiety, or what overwhelmed you. Give your brain some space to process your emotions by getting your feeling out on paper.

oping tactic #2: Dismiss the excuses.

By excuses I mean you’re primitive brain’s excuse to get you into the pantry. Instead of listening to them or reasoning with them, acknowledge they are there and dismiss them. There is no point reasoning with stupid, am I right?

A great tactic I use is relaxing my face muscles. It seems to make everything going on in my head less important.

Coping tactic #3: Go for a walk.

This is a great one for me because sometimes all you need is a little bit of alone time in nature. I find getting out of my apartment when I feel overwhelmed with the sensation to eat my fridge, it puts perspective on the situation. I, and my problems, are a little spec in the universe. That is all.

Nature is also proven to make one happier and more grateful for the things he/she has. Therefore, get outside my friend!

The hard truth about emotional eating

In conclusion, Breaking a habit is not easy, and I am going to be honest with you, the high from eating is something you will have to give up for good. No healthy reward will give you a sense of pleasure like eating will.

That is ok, in time the feeling will fade, and eating will become a way to nourish your body instead of a coping mechanism for when you are sad, lonely, or stressed

xx – Hailee

Book references:

Brain over binge

The little book of big change

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