8 WISE WAYS TO HELP IDENTIFY AND MANAGE EMOTIONAL EATING HABITS

1. First, understand that emotional hunger is very different from physical hunger. Emotional
hunger can appear quickly and lead to cravings for junk food. If you find yourself eating in
secret, feeling bad about what you’ve eaten, or experiencing physical signs like bloating,
stomach pains and poor skin, it could be a sign that you are indulging in emotional eating.

2. Try to recognise why you are eating. Emotional eaters often eat to deal with stress or
anxieties or use food as a reward for other achievements. They also regularly eat when they
are not physically hungry.

3. Once you’ve recognised why you are eating, it can become easier – with practice – to
identify and understand your emotional eating triggers. When you find yourself opening the
fridge door, stop and think about how you’re feeling. Are you angry about something?
Perhaps you’re scared, sad or anxious? Or even just lonely? If you can identify these, you
can take the first steps to regaining control of your relationship with food.

4. Emotional eating is our body’s way of finding fulfilment in difficult times. Learning to
recognise your emotional state is key to finding an alternative to eating. Try to devise
different things to do: if you’re anxious, try to burn some energy with a quick burst of
exercise, such as a dance or walk; if you’re tired, take a bath; if you’re bored, deliberately go
to your favourite hobby, or find a new TV show to watch.

5. Use mindful eating to help you avoid the excesses of emotional eating. Before you go
shopping, draw up a healthy shopping list – and stick to it rigidly once you get in the
supermarket. This will help to remove some temptations of high-sugar or high-fat foods
when you are at home.

6. Change the way you eat your main meals. Make sure you eat when you have an appetite,
but not when you are extremely hungry. Serve smaller portions (use smaller plates if you are
struggling not to serve your normal portion), take smaller bites, and spend longer than
normal chewing your food. These steps will help you feel just as satisfied as you would from
a larger meal eaten more quickly.

7. Try to ensure that whenever you eat, you focus only on the food. Don’t eat while
watching television, working, driving, or reading. By eating while occupying your mind with
something else, you are less likely to pay attention to what you are eating. Eating at a table,
with no other distractions, will make you much more aware of the food you’re eating and
could help you to reduce your consumption.

8. If you find yourself searching for chocolate or ice-cream later in the evening, aim to stop
and pause for just one minute before you eat. The next time it happens, pause for two minutes. Each time it happens, build up the length of the pause. Over time, you will be able
to get more control of your cravings.

Please note: these tips are intended as a starter guide and should not be taken as formal
medical advice. If you are suffering from a severe case of emotional eating, you should seek
professional help from your GP.

Credit: The Hospital Group

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