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How Can I Control My Emotional Eating Disorders?

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/28/2010

When people ask, "How can I control my emotional eating disorders?" they really are asking for help in controlling harmful behaviors that have become habits. Read on to find out some practical tips for recognizing emotional triggers and how to combat them.

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    How Can I Control My Emotional Eating Disorders?

    When people ask, "How can I control my emotional eating disorders?" they are referring to emotional triggers that cause them to overeat.

    Emotional eating is the act of using food as a way to disassociate from a reality or to soothe feelings stressed by unhappiness, frustration, depression, loneliness, or boredom. The eating disorder sufferers are using "food thoughts" to control or manage their feelings.

    Some examples of emotional eating are consuming large amounts of food when the body is not hungry, eating very quickly, and hoarding or hiding food. Another may be eating so much that the body is uncomfortable or even in pain. These behaviors commonly cause emotional distress, frustration, and even disgust once the food has been ingested. However, it is very normal for eating disorder sufferers to feel that their eating habits are out of control and they are unable to stop. These feelings often cause them to feel desperate and depressed.

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    Identifying Physical Versus Emotional Hunger

    With emotional eating, the signals from the body to the brain are ignored or just not heard. Food is normally eaten very quickly in large quantities before the stomach has a chance to send a signal to the brain telling it that the body is full.

    Before answering the question, "How can I control my emotional eating disorders," learning to identify the difference between emotional eating and actual hunger needs to happen. Once the mind reconnects with the body and learns to listen to signals that come from the stomach, controlling overeating behaviors can be initiated.

    One way in which to pinpoint physical hunger versus emotional eating is to start a food diary. Jotting down what was eaten, how much, at what time, and feelings associated with the food before being ingested and after can show a pattern in a very few days. A food diary can help an eating disorder sufferer find connecting feelings and subsequent eating behaviors to better find the emotional triggers so a way can be found to minimize and eliminate them.

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    Tips to Help Overcome Emotional Eating

    Once some of the emotional triggers have been recognized, it's time to address them. Here are some tips to help overcome those emotional triggers.

    If loneliness seems to be a trigger, then it's time to round up family and friends to help. When it's time to eat, make sure you have someone around to share a meal with you. A shared meal usually means conversation which means it takes longer to eat. The longer it takes to eat a meal, the less is eaten because the body has a chance to send a signal to the brain telling it when the body is full. Taking longer to eat is a good way to train your brain to recognize body signals that it has been ignoring for some time.

    Instead of sitting down for a meal, grab a healthy sandwich or a piece of fruit and take a walk around the neighborhood or park. Exercising with a snack is a healthy alternative to overeating.

    Many find that meditation or yoga help relax the body enough to eliminate food cravings. Try this type of exercise for 15-20 minutes and see if the craving to overeat goes away.

    Instead of finding a quiet place to indulge in a large meal, call a friend and go shopping, go cycling, or go visiting. Instead of seeking solitude, seek a social outlet.

    This is a great time to pick up a new hobby or activity, preferably one that involves others. Join a biking club, a bowling league, or a line dancing group. Avoid being alone by learning new things with new people. Being social will help combat depression and loneliness. Staying busy gives less time for your emotions to think about food.

    Eating small meals more often throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar stable and the moods level. Don't skip breakfast.

    Get rid of the junk or high calorie foods in the house. Why allow temptation to wave it's hands in front of your face. Replace the high calorie food with healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Plan fun healthy snacks ahead of time while at the grocery store so even the good for you food sounds appetizing when scouting through the refrigerator. A crunchy red apple with a handful of salty almonds or cashews makes for a flavorful snack or small meal. Since it has the combination of sweet, crunchy, and salty, it also satisfies many of the bad-for-you food cravings your body may be accustomed to.

    Get lots of rest. It's too easy to overeat when your body is tired and your mind is unable to focus properly.

    If you follow some of these tips to help overcome emotional eating, day by day it will become easier to stay away from harmful overeating behaviors.

    Put pride aside and ask for help from family and friends. After all, that's what family and friends are for.

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    References

    Help Guide.org - Helping Someone with an Eating Disorder: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/eating_disorder_treatment.htm

    At Health.com - Emotional Eating and Binge Eating Disorder: http://www.athealth.com/consumer/disorders/bingeinterview.html