Getting Over Overeating
5 ways to help break the emotional eating cycle
Experts estimate that 75% of us overeat not because we are hungry, but
rather in response to feelings. And when our eating is spurred by emotions, we
tend to consume mostly junk food.
What's a person to do in our food-centric society? Do we need more willpower
to overcome the food images that surround us everywhere we go? How do we resist
the temptation to "supersize" when the price is so appealing?
Food as a Coping Mechanism
Eating is so much more than satisfying hunger. We eat for many reasons, from
meeting our basic nutritional needs to celebrating with friends and family. We
eat when we are lonely, unhappy, stressed, or because of poor self-esteem. Some
of us are closet eaters who overeat when everyone else is in bed. As children,
we learned that food can bring comfort -- at least temporarily -- and we still
turn to food for reassurance.
Emotional eaters use food to nurture a deeper, emotional need. Their
emotional attachment to food becomes a crutch to help them cope with everyday
stressors. People who use food to heal emotions usually do so when they're not
feeling good about themselves, and the result is usually unwanted weight gain.
The excess weight leads to more negative feelings, triggering the cycle over
and over again.
Why Do We Overeat?
If you can identify the things that trigger your overeating, you can learn
to substitute healthful behaviors that help you manage emotional issues without
Certain situations tend to trigger emotional eating. You were doing fine
- You went to the family reunion.
- You went on vacation.
- Your mother kept pushing food onto your plate.
- You were so bored.
- You were celebrating your anniversary.
- You quit smoking.
- It was that time of the month.
- You were having a migraine.
- You broke up with your boyfriend.
And the list goes on and on. You need to be able to identify your own
personal triggers that push you to overeat so you can break the cycle and eat
in response to hunger, not feelings.
Breaking The Cycle
Identifying eating triggers is the first step. Now, you have to break the
emotional eating habit and adopt healthier habits to keep you from using food
to soothe yourself. Here are some more beneficial (and calorie-free) behaviors
that can help you break free of emotional eating.
1. Exercise. Not only does exercise burn
calories, but it also helps relieve those anxious feelings. A brisk walk will
help you pound your troubles into the pavement while releasing endorphins,
natural substances in your body that can help elevate your mood. Some experts
recommend that you start with eight to 10 minutes of exercise when you first
get out of bed. The early-morning endorphin rush can help you get through the