It's been a bad day at work. The kids have been acting up all day. You're stressed. How do you deal with it? Maybe by gobbling an extra piece of fried chicken? Or reaching into the bag of chips while zoning out in front of the television? Perhaps by snuggling up with a container of ice cream and spoon in bed? We've all caught ourselves giving in to emotional eating.
And yet we also know that we can't lose weight without limiting the calories that pass our lips. So how do you move beyond the urge to use food to fix feelings of anxiety, anger, or frustration? And how do you keep your kids from falling into the same trap?
Emotional eating tends to be a habit, and like any habit can be broken. It may be hard, especially if you've been doing it for a long time, but it is possible.
Weight problems often run in families, so the easiest way to tackle emotional eating is together as a family. You can’t expect an overweight child to stop binge-eating snacks and junk food when other people in the household are eating them.
Here are four tips to help you and your family stop using food as an emotional fix.
1. Make your house healthy.
Start with the obvious: If there is no junk food in the house, you can't binge on it. Instead, keep unprocessed, low-calorie, low-fat foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus, and unbuttered popcorn around for munching. And remember that they’re not just for your kids. Set a good example for them by trying and enjoying healthier options.
Take a look at your refrigerator and pantry and cut down on your go-to temptations.
Before you go grocery shopping, take a breather, go for a walk, and wait until your emotions are in check.
2. Figure out what's triggering emotional eating.
The next time you reach for comfort food, ask yourself, "Why do I want this candy bar? Am I really hungry?" If not, try to figure out what emotions you are feeling. Are you stressed, angry, bored, scared, sad, lonely? A food diary -- a written record of what, how much, and when you eat -- may help you see patterns in how mood affects what you choose to eat.