If you’re eating when you’re not physically hungry it’s helpful to know what the trigger is in order to know what to do about it. It’s what I call going right to the source.
Pay close attention to what is going on for you when you reach for food. What are you telling yourself? These are clues that can help you tailor your strategies to meet the need.
I’ve often written about strategies related to eating itself, like mindful eating or measuring satiety and hunger. This article deals with the emotions specifically.
If you’re telling yourself, “I deserve this” as you reach for food it could be because you’re looking for a reward for a good day, or a hard day. Deservedness might also come from a place of self-loathing and a desire to punish yourself. “I deserve to feel bad.” Let’s get this straight. You don’t deserve punishment – no matter who you are or what you’ve done or not done. Punishment rarely works to rehabilitate.
Try kindness, self-acceptance/love/compassion instead.
You do, however, deserve a reward for a good day or a hard day. But it doesn’t need to be food or drink. What else might feel like a reward and make you happy?
Make a list.
Choose the reward proportionate to the achievement.
Be fully present. Getting caught up in the future worrying about what might happen helps fuel overwhelm. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
Break things down into small steps and just keep moving.
Let something go. Everything can’t be equally important. Pick your priorities. Self-care, including nutrition, sleep and physical activity are hopefully high on your list because they support you to perform. Maybe committee work, housework, painted nails or Netflix can go?
Take breaks. This might seem counter-intuitive when you need to get things done, but stopping for just a few minutes to walk away, call a friend, breathe or stretch the kinks out will bring out your best.
Ask for help. Figure out what you need most and aren’t accomplishing. Who can help?
Ironically, when you’re in overwhelm you long for boredom. But the ho-hum of boredom can mess with you too. Are you reaching for food to supply a little thrill of excitement as a substitute for the real thing?
Make short-term and long-term plans. It’s always good to have something to do at any given moment. Who doesn’t get excited about having something bigger to look forward to?
Get curious. Look back to what you used to do for fun or pleasure that maybe you’ve let go. Go as far back as your childhood for clues to what excites or inspires you. On the other hand, what have you always wanted to do or learn? Is now the time?
Make a Commitment. Those ideas are not useful bouncing around in your head. Pick something and DO IT.
If you’ve lost something or someone, or you just feel sad, you might also want to reach for food or drink to numb the pain. I’m not a mental health professional but I think these strategies always help.
Be gentle with yourself. There is no right or wrong way, or time frame to grieve. Self-compassion makes the hard times easier.
Rest. You might feel exhausted. Honor that.
Move. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Just move.
Get professional help if you feel stuck or need support.
We use food for all kinds of reasons. It’s cultural, social, etc. It’s not entirely about physical hunger. But if you’re an emotional eater and want to stop that, practicing self-awareness to know your triggers and going to the source will help keep you out of the fridge more often. It takes some honesty and commitment too. If you get stuck just holler.