Today, I wanted to talk about emotional eating. I think it is something we all experience as we all are humans, with mood fluctuations, good and bad days.
Researchers agree to say that it is the results of cravings we can have throughout the day, when we only want a certain food, here and now (like for example ice cream, chips or chocolate). It is more the result of our mood than actual hunger. It can be linked to stress, loneliness or boredom and we usually feel worse and guilty after satisfying our cravings.
To differentiate emotional eating from real hunger, we should ask ourselves a question: “okay, I want a cookie now. What about an apple/spinach/celery/cucumber/fish/rice? Would I eat it? If the answer is yes, then it’s hunger. If it’s no, that’s emotional eating.
Here, I have decided to divide cravings throughout the day so you can have different solutions depending on when your craving occurs. However, I am not a dietician, so if you are experiencing emotional eating and you are looking to lose weight, please consult your doctor.
Also, the body mixes up hunger and thirst. Therefore, you might think you are hungry when you are actually thirsty. Make sure to stay hydrated and to drink plenty of water throughout the day!
If you are experiencing cravings in the morning, ask yourself if you had a good breakfast. A good breakfast is made of carbs, fat, and proteins, the 3 macronutrient groups to satisfy hunger and stay full until noon. If you work out in the morning, pack a snack with you. Researchers have shown that people who also do not eat breakfast in the morning tend to gain weight because they are snacking on fat food (such as chips). Therefore, to avoid cravings in the morning, make sure you have a good breakfast, pack yourself a small morning snack you can eat around 9:30-10am (depending on when you eat your lunch) and drink plenty of fluids, such as water or tea to stay hydrated.
If you are hungry at any time during the day, try to analyze your mind. Is it actual hunger? Are you thirsty? If you really want to eat something, start to drink a glass of water. If you are still hungry, do not snack on the go. Make yourself a good snack, sit at your table and eat your snack. This is a simple trick to prevent you from grabbing cookies 5 times in the cupboard. If you sit down and eat your snack, you can see everything you are eating and you are less likely going to come back in the kitchen 10 minutes after to grab another cookie.
Also, your emotional hunger can be caused by loneliness or boredom. Therefore, try to make your mind busy by doing something. For example, watch a TV show, go outside to walk or run, move your body, call a friend… anything that can divert your mind from cravings.
Depending on when you have dinner (Americans usually have dinner around 6-7pm), you might have cravings around 10 pm, which is normal and usually actual hunger (since you spent 4 hours since your last meal!). Please do not binge on cookies, but instead, make yourself a healthy snack, like for example raw veggies (carrots, cucumber, raw broccoli/cauliflower) or kale chips, roasted chickpeas… I try to keep my snack salty rather than sugary since I try to avoid sugar, but any healthy snack is good. Try to eat it with a big glass of water/tea as it will fill your stomach quicker. Also if you know you are done eating, brush your teeth. It will make them clean, freshen your breath and remove the sugar you might crave later. Plus nobody wants to brush twice, right?!
And for the time you are feeling sad or over stressed out and you want to eat all your fridge, try to stay away from the kitchen. Do something you like that can relax your mind, such as watching youtube or Netflix, do a hobby, pamper yourself. And if you cannot, sit at the table and make yourself a good snack, remember that we all are humans, it happens so do not feel guilty. A salad has never made anyone slim so an unhealthy emotional eating made of ice cream once in a while will not make you fat, and things will get better tomorrow.
Do you experience emotional eating? How to your control your cravings?