Emotional Eating - Mature Health Center

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Originally published February 18, 2013, last updated February 20, 2014

Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating

Nothing To Be Happy About

Does this sound familiar? If you’re depressed, exhausted or bored, you eat. If you’re lonely, worried or sad, you eat. And if you want to reward yourself or celebrate, you eat. If so, you’re an emotional eater.

Everyone likes comfort during tough times or to reward themselves for working hard. The easiest, most enjoyable way is to eat. Of course, your comfort and pleasure only last moments. Pounds pile on. You become guilty and depressed and eat some more. Food offers no solutions for your actual problems and even magnifies them. Your “rewards” and “celebrations” become detrimental. So what do you do?

First, be aware. Recognize those times you’re eating in response to your emotions rather than physical hunger.

Sometimes busy people eat when they’re tired because they feel like they’re accomplishing something. Allow yourself time to rest without eating. Or exercise to give yourself a spurt of energy.
You’re bored, so get out of the house or read a good book. Lonely? Call a friend. Worried? Pray, meditate or get counsel.

Depressed? Divide your time among your vices. Instead of overeating, sleeping all day or going on a shopping spree, eat one cookie, buy one item and take a short nap. The varied activity will keep you distracted from your negative thinking and cause minimal damage. When you’re in a better mood, examine why you were depressed. Combat it with practical solutions, positive thinking or, if needed, a trip to your doctor.

Don’t get down on yourself when you fail, but recognize why you gave in to emotional eating and devise a better plan for next time. And if you must munch, choose nuts, fruits and vegetables over the rich food you crave. Reprogram your mind to associate nutritional food with pleasant thoughts.

Changing your habits won’t happen overnight, but you can get emotional eating under control if you identify the actual problem, come up with real solutions and learn to comfort, reward and celebrate in ways other than eating.

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