One of the real enemies of any weight loss plan is the slip-ups caused by emotional eating. Just when we start to make progress something happens to trigger a bout of feeling down and out and we reach for the comfort food and break the hard-won resolve to control what we eat.
Studies by prominent psychologist and researchers who specialise in eating disorders and emotional eating have identified a fundamental cause related to people lacking the skills to cope with bad feelings and the roller coaster of emotions we all experience in life.
People need to understand that it is OK to feel bad sometimes and that it takes time to work through the troughs on the roller coaster ride. Instead people reach for the quick fix to get instant relief from bad feelings. Many of these bad episodes are caused by stress and anxiety, some of it self-induced.
Knowing the cause of bad feelings, how to deal with it in ways that does not involve grabbing for the comfort food and generally coping with negative emotions is the key to dealing with emotional eating tendencies. This article explores the issues and reviews the research on this topic.
We have the notion negative feeling must be overcome straight away. While as parents we often distract children when they get upset, we don't do the same thing to ourselves. Some type of distraction, apart from food, can work well in adults as well, such as doing some exercise or watching a video. People do not learn how to work through their negative feelings and rough periods. Instead we seek the quick fix and grab some alcohol or calorie laden snack so we feel better. This becomes a habit that is hard to overcome.
If you learn work through your negative feeling when they arise, you will realise that the feelings are like a roller coaster, rising up with intensity and then subsiding. It is rather like hunger pangs themselves. It is very powerful to realise that you can handle these episodes of negative feelings. It is also empowering to realise that you can cope with the down times without grabbing for a quick-fix antidote. Being negative some of the time is quite normal
Learning to ride out the negative feelings is one key to preventing emotional eating and eating when you are not really hungry. The other key is to re-educate yourself with hunger signals via a technique called mindful eating. Understanding hunger and fullness signals and taking control of them is very effective and is a critical part of dieting that many people never get acquainted with.
One way to do this is to use a 0 to 7 scale of hunger.
The idea is to stop getting completely ravenous as this often leads to overeating - overshooting the hunger pangs and overshooting so you eat more than you really need. Part of this is about eating food slowly and really engaging with food so that your hunger can be satisfied. This means not eating when you are doing something else and gulping down the food. Eating too quickly or when you are distracted means that you can miss the fullness signals. It also means that you deny yourself the opportunity of really enjoying your food and savoring every mouthful.
People who diet often think they have to switch to boring foods and simply believe that they have to regard food as a fuel. This is a mistake because they miss the enjoyment of food they had when not dieting and part of the problem is that they crave for this enjoyment and go back to the foods they really like to eat.
Mindful Eating is a simple-to-learn life skill that is not a diet, but is a guide for the way we eat, not what we eat.
Being mindful means focusing on the present moment and re programming the way we respond to food, emotionally as well as physically.
The main principles of Mindful Eating entails:
Extensive research has shown that mindful eating has helped many people to control, emotional eating, craving for food, overeating tendencies and binge eating. It works by helping people to recognise the body’s internal satiety and hunger signals.
The reasons why people engage in mindless eating rather than mindful eating are because they:
Mindful Eating is designed to counteract these tendencies by making people more aware of their senses and becoming better at understanding hunger and the signals about hunger, fullness and keeping the emotions out of the decisions about when and what to eat. The mindful eating approach includes making a decision to really enjoy your food and eating healthily, slowing down the rate at which you eat food, keeping a mindful journal, focusing more on the eating experience and not letting distractions such as watching television block your senses relating to when you are full and what you are eating.
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