If you struggle with emotional eating: stress eating, boredom eating, comfort eating, frustration eating, or any type of eating designed to help you cope with or avoid your feelings, you know that it can be a difficult habit to break. It’s one thing to identify that you struggle with emotional eating, but even after you have identified the feelings and situations that trigger you, it may be difficult to figure out what to do instead of eating when these situations arise.
Of course, you will be more likely to successfully make lasting changes if you have a ready-made list of strategies that you can use when the urge to eat, snack, graze, or binge arises. Unfortunately, when asked to create such a list, it’s pretty common to draw a blank. What to do instead of something that comes so automatically? That can be a tough one.
Don’t let that dissuade you.
If you are trying to kick the emotional eating habit, sit down right now and make a list of ten things you can do instead when the feeling hits. Think about the different situations you might be in — what you can do instead of overeating at work is probably different than what you can turn to to avoid emotional eating in the evening.
How do you make such a list? It’s really about trial and error. Without experimenting, you won’t uncover the unique combination of strategies that work for you.
My tips for creating a list of what to do instead of emotional eating:
- Think simple and do-able. You don’t need to eliminate a craving or an urge completely, but you do want to get through it.
- Consider both strategies that help you actively address the emotions you are feeling (stress, anxiety, loneliness, etc.), and, what I call “warm blanket strategies.” These are the strategies you can use when you can’t actively change the situation (maybe you are stress eating at work because you have little control of the demands there) and you simply need some comfort to wrap up in (like a warm blanket). Comfort that is not food. For example, if you are eating because you are lonely, active strategies would attack the loneliness. You might reach out to a friend or spend some time chatting online. A warm blanket strategy would be something kind that you could do for yourself out of compassion for how you are feeling—maybe taking time to read a favorite book or a nonfood indulgence like a warm bath or some new tunes for your mp3 player.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. To kick the emotional eating habit, you need to get out of the rut of doing things a certain way (turning to food). Consider any way that you can change things up—moving to a different room or location, changing the order of your routine, creating reminders of the new strategies that you want to try. Notice the things that help and keep building on them.
My bet is that you are looking for a solution that lasts — what I often call, peace with food. That’s different from a crash diet that starts with lots of motivation and then, well, crashes. The more you practice looking for what works for you instead of eating, the more you will start to identify solutions. It’s definitely a process, but one that pays off big time.
Dr. Melissa McCreery is a Psychologist, Coach, and Emotional Eating and Overwhelm Eliminator for smart busy women. She is the author of the Emotional Eating Toolbox™ 28 Day Program http:/emotionaleatingtoolbox.com. Are you struggling with emotional eating, overeating, and balancing work and life? Claim your easy-to-use audio series: “Five Simple Steps to Move Beyond Overwhelm with Food and Life” at http://TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.