Emotional overeating refers to any of a number of eating habits where genuine hunger is not the motivational factor. It is more common among women than men, but men are not immune – especially young men in their teens and twenties. Those who suffer from this disorder associate food with emotional comfort, and will turn to eating to escape negative feelings.
If you have emotional overeating tendencies, you’re not alone – many people who suffer from this problem feel imprisoned and helpless. It can seem like you are unable to break free from the overwhelming emotions and habits. But there’s good news – it’s a treatable problem.
Being honest with yourself is an important first step. Emotional overeaters tend to judge themselves pretty harshly, but don’t – you’re not an isolated case or some kind of freak. It’s a sign of strength to seek help! It means you’ve identified the problem.
If you’re struggling with this problem, there are some things you can do to get things under control while you’re seeking professional help. Here are some tips…
Your Grocery List
When an emotional moment hits and you head for the refrigerator or pantry, what kind of foods do you usually go for? Often, emotional overeaters head for high-calorie comfort foods like ice cream, chips, or candy bars. But you can’t eat those things if they are not in your house! Here are some examples of foods to put on your grocery list in place of the ones you may be tempted to buy. (Another tip – buy only the foods on your list. Compulsive buying of food is tempting.)
- *Brown rice (instead of white rice)
- *Millet (instead of or in addition to rice)
- *Fresh fruits and vegetables (rather than canned)
- *Low-fat, low-calorie yogurt (rather than ice cream)
- *Popcorn kernels for air popping (rather than chips and fatty snacks)
- *Lean protein like fish, turkey, and chicken (instead of deli meats and processed meats like hotdogs and bologna)
- *Natural, healthy cooking oils like olive and safflower oil (instead of shortening, lard, or unhealthy oils)
Don’t Crash Diet
It’s good to be proactive in solving problems, and emotional eating is no exception. If you try to crash diet, you may find yourself eating more after the crash diet is over. So, rather than stopping eating everything you love, try some of these tips:
- *Allow yourself to have a dish of frozen yogurt each week as a treat. This approach tends to be easier than just cutting out all frozen treats. You could use this approach with other “naughty” foods, too – it may be easier to resist if you know you are going to have that food on Saturday (or whatever day of the week you choose to have a small treat).
- *Boost your nutrition with a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.
- *Increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods.
Eat Regular Meals
Experts recommend regular mealtimes as a way to combat emotional overeating. If it’s not “time” for food, then you may be better able to hold off on eating until it is time. Also, eating regular meals helps you to be deliberate about your intake of nutritious foods. And finally, having regular meal times tends to make for a more relaxed eating experience, which is the direct opposite of anxiety-driven overeating.
If you, or someone else you know, needs additional help with emotional overeating, there are many counsellors and psychologists that specialize in eating disorders. You can also check out a selection of books on the subject here