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Navigating Emotional Eating

Man eating pizza

Many situations lead us to eat for reasons outside of hunger. These range from social gatherings to habitual snacking during a movie to having a snow cone on a hot summer day. There's also the more obvious form of emotional eating which involves eating as a direct coping strategy for stress, sadness, or some other emotion(s).

It is important to remember that several of these situations are encouraged. Eating is - and should be - pleasurable so avoiding situations where food is involved is not the solution. Instead, here are a few suggestions that can help you understand your emotional eating tendencies so you can plan for these situations accordingly:

Establish a Routine

Firstly, having a general meal schedule you adhere to can be beneficial. This both makes it easier to identify when you are eating for reasons outside of hunger and to avoid situations where you become overly hungry and more inclined to overindulge.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

When you find yourself eating at an atypical time, ask yourself how you feel. Did you have a stressful day? Are you feeling bored? Lonely? Sad? Consider what actually makes you feel better during these situations. Food is comforting, but rarely resolves the root issue. Perhaps calling a friend, going for a walk, journaling, or partaking in a favorite hobby would be a better substitution.

Assess Your Surroundings

Often times our behaviors are cyclic. Take note of when you emotionally eat. This will allow you to become more mindful when facing these tempting situations.

Indulge a Little

It's okay to eat the sporadic snow cone. If an unhealthy food brings you joy, it's encouraged to incorporate a portion-controlled serving on occasion.

Practice Self-compassion

You're human. It takes time to put these changes into practice on a daily basis. If you find yourself eating an entire bag of chips at a barbeque, forgive yourself. Ask yourself what you could have done differently so that you are able to avoid this at the next social gathering.