Control Emotional Eating: RATE HOW RAVENOUS YOU ARE
Getting into the habit of recognizing the difference between physical and emotional hunger can alert you to when you're eating for the wrong reasons and help you resist those urges. "Just being aware that your craving has nothing to do with your appetite will help keep you from bingeing," says Linda W. Craighead, Ph.D., the author of The Appetite Awareness Workbook.
DO IT She recommends making a mental note of how hungry you are on a scale of one to seven every time you eat, with one being stuffed and seven being starving. "Try to decide whether you're really hungry, you're craving a specific type of food, or you just want to eat," she says. "After a few weeks, this type of thinking will happen naturally any time you go to take a bite. When you're on the verge of eating for emotional reasons, a warning bell will go off in your head, helping you hit the brakes."
How to Control Emotional Eating: Tweak Your Treats
Control Emotional Eating: TWEAK YOUR TREATS
"The trick to learning to step out of your comfort [food] zone is to gradually replace the high-calorie dishes you fall back on with healthier versions," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., the author of the book Mindless Eating.
DO IT Instead of handling a defeat with cheesecake, have a bowl of berries topped with lowfat ricotta and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Keep doing that and soon you'll associate the not-so-bad food with feelings of happiness. Another trick is to keep your levels of feel-good brain chemicals up. Be sure every meal contains a mix of high- quality carbs (like beans, whole grains, and fruit) as well as healthy fats (such as nuts, eggs, olive oil, and fish). This will help stabilize your mood and dampen those cravings.
How to Control Emotional Eating: Use the Buddy System
Control Emotional Eating: USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM
One of the reasons people emotionally eat is because they don't feel supported. "Sometimes your friends are busy. Food, on the other hand, is always available, and you can always count on it tasting good," says Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., the director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute.
DO IT "Focus on improving your relationships and you won't need food to lift your spirits," she says. Try boosting the number of live interactions you have. "With the Internet, texting, and e-mail, you can spend a whole day without actually talking to anyone. Go to lunch once a week with your mom or call a friend instead of sending her an e-mail."
How to Control Emotional Eating: Give Yourself Time
Control Emotional Eating: GIVE YOURSELF TIME
How's this for a solution: You can eat every single thing you want. The only catch is that you have to let at least 30 minutes pass before you can have it. "When you wait to eat, you put a buffer between you and the food," says Spangle. "In that time, the temptation often goes away, saving you from a spontaneous binge you'll regret later."
DO IT If you don't think you can force yourself to hit the pause button on your own, make it harder to get to the comfort food. Avoid stocking candy at your desk and don't keep loose change or dollar bills in your purse that can be used for the vending machine. At home, keep chocolate in the freezer so it has to thaw before you can eat it, or store junk food down in the basement. These strategies won't work every time, but having a few barriers in place will help cut down on how often you overindulge.
How to Control Emotional Eating: Reprogram Yourself
Control Emotional Eating: REPORGRAM YOURSELF
"You're used to eating when you're upset, but you can rewire your brain to feel comforted by other behaviors," says Susan Albers, the author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.
DO IT "Avoid waiting until you're in the middle of a food craving to try out a new tactic; that would be like learning how to swim in the middle of rough waters," says Albers. She suggests making a list of all the healthy things that pick you up after a tough day, like walking your dogs, taking a bath, doing yoga, or watching your favorite chick flick. Get in the habit of doing these things on good days so that when anxiety strikes, you automatically turn to them instead of the cookie dough that's in your freezer.
How to Control Emotional Eating: Consider the Consequences
Control Emotional Eating: CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES
Chances are, when you eat too much or polish off something you think you shouldn't have, you try to immediately put the binge out of your mind and forget about it. Turns out, this isn't the best strategy. "You have to give yourself a good reason not to emotionally eat or you'll keep doing it," says Craighead.
DO IT She recommends practicing negative reinforcement. "So when you have just downed a huge muffin because you're stressed about the workday ahead of you, take a few minutes and focus on how uncomfortable you feel and how you wish you had chosen something else or hadn't finished off the whole thing," she says. "Really dwell on how your body is reacting. Do this a few times and soon, when you're walking to work, pass by a coffee shop, and start craving a muffin, you'll remember the aftermath and won't want it as badly."
How to Control Emotional Eating: Keep Things in Perspective
Control Emotional Eating: KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
In the moment you're considering scarfing that supersize candy bar, think about whether it's worth feeling bad about later on. "You want to eat the food, but you also want to feel good about yourself," says Craighead. "You can't have it all, and most splurges end up not tasting as good as you want them to."
DO IT You may need a visual reminder of why you're holding back. "Have a jar with a picture on the outside of something you want, like a sexy pair of designer jeans," says Albers. "When you're craving a treat, decide whether you want to put the $4 for a Frappuccino in the jar instead. It's incredibly motivating to know you're working toward a more lasting reward."
How to Control Emotional Eating: Don't Be So Hard on Yourself
Control Emotional Eating: DON'T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF
If you do devour a second slice of cake, beating yourself up over it is a surefire way to keep bingeing. "Thinking you're weak makes you feel worse, which can send you searching for more food," says Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., the author of The Complete Beck Diet for Life.
DO IT Keep it in perspective: A single slipup won't cause you to put on 10 pounds. And don't let one lapse be an excuse to eat poorly all day. "If you went through a red light and got a ticket, you wouldn't go through red lights for the rest of the day," says Beck. "The more you prove you can quickly get back on track, the easier it gets."
Our experts explain why the battle of the bulge may have more to do with your EMOTIONAL EATING.