Take a trip down your memory lane. What were your favourite childhood memories and the food items associated with it. Remember that candy or snack that you were rewarded with for being obedient? Or that one snack that reminded you of your mom? These are usually what you resort to eating when you feel low or sad.
Emotional eating can often be traced back to childhood memories. It is nothing but comfort food for the low moments of your life, drawn from your past. However, when you resort to binging on your feel-good-food every day, you put yourself at the risk of obesity and other ailments caused by excessive eating.
The danger of emotional eating lies in its cyclical nature. First you feel low. Then you crave for your comfort food. Most of these foods are high in starch and carbohydrates, which elevate your mood temporarily and then you get right back to feeling low. Thereby one gets caught in this vicious cycle, unable to snap out of it and piling on kilos at the same time.
How do I get over it?
One of the first steps is to avoid storing that food item in your kitchen. Secondly, divert your attention to other physical activities. It could be a foot massage or a breathing exercise or swimming; anything that can elevate your mood as well as help you start thinking on rational lines rather than dwell on your craving. The following tips will help you analyse your emotional eating issue a little deeper.
- Identify the trigger. What induces your craving? Is it a particular situation? Does it have something to do with the way you feel about something/someone? Is it a reaction? Or is it simply boredom? Work stress? Some even resort to emotional eating when they haven't dealt properly with grief or loss. In this case you may want to consult a psychologist or a therapist.
- Identify the timing of your craving hits. Figure out a way to control it or replace it with food that is more nutritious - nuts, fruits, oats, or a protein meal like a chicken sandwich.
- Ask yourself if you really need this food. Some of the other useful questions you can ask yourself at this point are:
- Am I going to get what I want/need from this food? What do I actually need? Can I eat just a small amount and be satisfied? Is there something else I can do that would be healthy and personally satisfying? Can I try letting it go just once and observe the craving as a thought or feeling?
- Be aware of how your body feels in the hours after you have eaten - Are you energized or tired? Do you feel heavy, comfortable or still hungry? Do you feel positive that you have fuelled properly or negative about making the wrong choice or eating more than you needed?
These are just guidelines to help you identify your weak points in emotional eating. If you are suffering a serious emotional eating issue, it is recommended that you consult a dietician/ nutritionist at the earliest.
Dr. NAAZNIN HUSEIN
President, IDA MUMBAI CHAPTER
Director, Freedom Wellness Management