Emotional Eating is a term that describes using food as emotional fulfillment. It’s something that most of us have done at some point in our lives; eaten when we weren’t hungry in an effort to soothe an uncomfortable feeling (read: devoured an entire bag of potato chips while laying on the couch after a rough day). In these situations, food is used like a drug for numbing your emotions instead of a tool for nourishing your body. While it might feel good in the moment, the emotion that triggered the craving will still be there once the food is gone, leaving you feeling even worse than you felt before you ate the food, ultimately leading to even more cravings. Suddenly you’re in a vicious cycle.

Emotional Eating can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem + eating disorders. Before it gets to that point, here are some tips for gaining control over your relationship with food and eliminating Emotional Eating from your life:

1. Learn Your Emotional Triggers

Before you grab that snack, ask yourself what your body needs. Are you truly hungry? Are you trying to numb the stress or anxiety you feel about something else in your life? When working on Therapy in Virginia Beach, there are some of the first questions we must answer. Learning which emotions trigger cravings can help you feel more prepared to substitute this behavior with a healthier option. Next time you’re feeling stressed and a craving hits, try going for a walk or calling a friend.

2. Prepare Your Meals Ahead of Time

Taking time to plan out your meals in advance can be crucial in eliminating Emotional Eating. When you already have your meals laid out for the day, it leaves little room for mindless snacking or overindulging. If you find yourself hungry between planned meals, you’ll be able to more easily attribute the craving to your emotions rather than hunger. (Apps like my fitness pal can help you determine how many calories you should be consuming a day according to your weight/height/age to ensure your consuming the proper amount of nutrients.)

3. Practice Mindful Eating

When it’s time to eat, do it mindfully. Eating mindfully means staying present + focused on the food you are enjoying. If possible, try to sit at a table in a room with no other distractions (i.e. turn off the tv). Focus on the color, texture, smell, and taste of each bite you take. Pay attention to how it makes you feel and notice when you’re starting to become full. By practicing mindful eating, we are listening to the cues from our bodies to ensure we don’t overeat.

4. Get Professional Help

If you’re finding that your emotions are becoming difficult to manage on your own + you’re in need of more effective coping skills, it might be time to seek professional help. By working with a therapist, you can learn coping skills to manage your anxiety in a healthier, more effective manner.