4 Tips for Healing Your Emotional Eating Habit
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4 Tips for Healing Your Emotional Eating HabitIs Emotional Eating Hurting Your Health?
What does your mind have to do with eating? The truth is, a lot! It turns out that we don’t always eat to satisfy hunger. If you are overweight there is a very good chance that you are eating extra food for emotional support. Sometimes we turn to food when we feel anxious, happy, sad, disappointed, scared, angry, and even bored.1,2 Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t solve emotional problems. In fact, it may even make the problem worse by introducing feels of powerlessness, shame and guilt.
As I outline in my latest book Slimming Meals that Heal, emotional eating is the root cause of many health problems because when we go overboard on pre-packaged junk food, we create nutritional imbalances that wreak hormonal havoc. Furthermore, eating when we’re stressed out compromises our digestion. Our body physically cannot digest food properly when we’re in a state of “flight or flight,” because it’s getting ready to flee from danger. When we eat when the body is in this state, food remains in the gut, ignored until the stress has passed. In the meantime, our gut flora start to feast on whatever food is there. This can contribute to indigestion, allergies and autoimmune disorders, and the symptoms associated with these conditions.
Some foods may feel like they have addictive qualities because emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. We may feel like we need ice cream or chocolate or a bag of chips and nothing else will do. However, hormones do play a role too. When we eat a comfort food, the body releases trace amounts of hormones that raise our mood.3 For example, carbohydrates boost serotonin in the brain. This satisfying feeling may reinforce a preference for the food. In other words, the food quickly becomes associated with feelings of pleasure.4,5 Once we train our brain to feel rewarded and soothed by certain foods, it’s difficult to break the habit.
While other recovery programs focus on eliminating the substance or behavior, that’s hard to do with food because we need it to survive. It can be difficult to find a balance and regain control, but it is possible.
Here are 4 tips for reducing food cravings and stabilizing your emotions:
1. Keep a Food Journal – Track how often you eat in order to begin to distinguish between true physical hunger and emotional eating and figure out what your triggers are.
2. Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids – One way to boost mood naturally and reduce cravings is to consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as coldwater fish, flax and chia, and hemp seeds.
3. Get Enough Sleep – Lack of sleep has a direct impact on your hunger hormones, overeating, and weight gain.
4. Eat Well-Balanced Meals Regularly – Eating too little and extreme dieting or starvation will derail your progress just as much as eating too often. If you skip meals and go hungry for too long, or if you’re choosing unbalanced meals with empty calories, your blood sugar will drop too low and your brain will start craving sugar, its quickest way to boost energy.
Every meal you eat should contain protein and fat, along with a complex carbohydrate like quinoa, millet, or amaranth. If you’re not eating enough calories to meet your needs, you’ll be more likely to give in to emotional eating. Start your day off with a high-fiber, protein-rich breakfast like my Superfood Quinoa Porridge (recipe in Slimming Meals That Heal) in order to feel full and nourished for longer and follow it up with my Bust the Blues Hemp Salad for lunch for energy to take to right until dinner.
1. Nguyen-Rodriguez, S., Unger, J.B., Spruijut-Metz, D. 2010. Psychological determinants of emotional eating in adolescence. Journal of Eating Disorders.
2. Bast, E., and Berry, E.M. 2014. Laugh away the fat? Therapeutic humor in the control of stress-induced emotional eating. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal. 5(1).
3. Wurtman, R.J. and Wurtman, J.J. 1995. Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity and depression. Obesity Research.
4. Giuliani, N., Mann, T., Tomiyama, A.J. et al. 2014. Neural systems underlying the reappraisal of personally craved foods. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 26(7): 1390-1402.
5. Macht, M. and Mueller, J. 2007. Immediate effects of chocolate on experimentally induced mood states. Appetite. 49(3): 667-74.
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk is the author of Meals That Heal Inflammation / Slimming Meals That Heal (Hay House) and co-host of the Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
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