When you think of stopping emotional overeating, does it seem like an impossible goal? You’re not alone – many people who suffer from this problem feel imprisoned and helpless. It can seem like you are unable to break free from the overwhelming emotions and habits. But there’s good news – it’s a treatable problem.
Being honest with yourself is an important first step. Emotional overeaters tend to judge themselves pretty harshly, but don’t – you’re not an isolated case or some kind of freak. It’s a sign of strength to seek help! It means you’ve identified the problem.
If you’re struggling with this problem, there are some things you can do to get things under control while you’re seeking professional help. Here are some tips.
Your Grocery List
When an emotional moment hits and you head for the refrigerator or pantry, what kind of foods do you usually go for? Often, emotional overeaters head for high-calorie comfort foods like ice cream, chips, or candy bars. But you can’t eat those things if they are not in your house! Here are some examples of foods to put on your grocery list in place of the ones you may be tempted to buy. (Another tip – buy only the foods on your list. Compulsive buying of food is tempting.)
* Brown rice (instead of white rice)
* Millet (instead of or in addition to rice)
* Fresh fruits and vegetables (rather than canned)
* Low-fat, low-calorie yogurt (rather than ice cream)
* Popcorn kernels for air popping (rather than chips and fatty snacks)
* Lean protein like fish, turkey, and chicken (instead of deli meats and processed meats like hotdogs and bologna)
* Natural, healthy cooking oils like olive and safflower oil (instead of shortening, lard, or unhealthy oils)
Don’t Crash Diet
It’s good to be proactive in solving problems, and emotional eating is no exception. If you try to crash diet, you may find yourself eating more after the crash diet is over. So, rather than stopping eating everything you love, try some of these tips.
* Allow yourself to have a dish of frozen yogurt each week as a treat. This approach tends to be easier than just cutting out all frozen treats. You could use this approach with other “naughty” foods, too – it may be easier to resist if you know you are going to have that food on Saturday (or whatever day of the week you choose to have a small treat).
* Boost your nutrition with a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.
* Increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods.
Eat Regular Meals
Experts recommend regular mealtimes as a way to combat emotional overeating. If it’s not “time” for food, then you may be better able to hold off on eating until it is time. Also, eating regular meals helps you to be deliberate about your intake of nutritious foods. And finally, having regular meal times tends to make for a more relaxed eating experience, which is the direct opposite of anxiety-driven overeating.
Once you understand what whole foods are, you can then begin to recognize why they are so important to the overall health and wellbeing of your body and mind. Whole foods are intended to be eaten as is and accepted for what their values and benefits are. When you eat a whole food, you offer your body a host of bountiful nutrients and benefits. One of those benefits is to allow your body to function the way that nature intended it.
The old adage that knowledge is power certainly does apply to whole foods. If you know how beneficial they are for maintaining weight loss and boosting metabolism, you will certainly find creative ways to incorporate those whole foods into your diet.
Thankfully, Mother Nature had it all figured out when it came to whole foods. Not only do they have the benefit of vitamins, minerals (being all-natural) and providing your body with the ability to function properly and lose weight, they are also extremely portable.
For example, how easy is it to grab an apple, an orange, or a banana as you are running out the door? We all know female friends who put their makeup on at a red light. How about taking that time to eat a banana or an apple on the way to work? If you wake up ten minutes earlier and put your makeup on at home, then you can use your red-light time for something much more productive like eating a fruit-filled breakfast.
Whole foods such as potatoes and even sweet potatoes can be microwaved as well. Since just about every office or workspace has a microwave, wrapping a sweet potato or two in a paper towel and placing it in the microwave has never been easier. You can achieve the benefit of that whole food with the ease and convenience of the microwave.
Whole foods come in many varieties, shapes, and forms. A skinless piece of chicken breast is a whole food as long as it is not processed nor has anything added or taken away in the process. An egg can be considered a whole food as well. A hard-boiled egg as a snack is better than processed egg whites from a carton that has salt added to it.
With a little preparation, you can take something like leftover chicken breast and turn it into a healthy chicken salad. Even cherry tomatoes make great little snacks you can pop into your mouth.
With a little effort, minimum time, and some creativity, incorporating whole foods into your diet should be a piece of cake.
With all the antibiotics found in today’s meat products, as well as things such as fillers, additives, and chemicals, many individuals are considering making the switch to a vegan diet.
Of course, when making any kind of change, all aspects of that change need exploring. There are many healthy aspects of a vegan diet.
* In earlier days, vegan diets consisted of only vegetables. This is not the case today, however. Vegan diets now include meat-free items such as veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs. Some companies are now developing vegetarian products such as “steak strips” or “chicken nuggets.”
* Going out to eat for a vegetarian used to be a cause for concern. Variety was non-existent or limited at best. Today, however, almost every restaurant has a complete vegan menu from which to choose.
* Studies have shown that eating a diet that is high in animal fats can lead to several diseases such as a higher risk of cancer and diabetes. Vegan diets exclude animal by-products, thereby eliminating these risks.
* Articles have appeared showing that eating a diet that is based on plants can reduce the risk and possibly even reverse progression of chronic illnesses.
* Vegan diets have been shown to reduce cholesterol.
* Vegan diets can be high in protein through eating foods such as nuts and beans.
* Fiber is an extra-added bonus of the vegan diet as many vegetables are naturally high in fiber.
* Another positive aspect of a vegan diet is the mental health benefit, so to speak. Vegans do not use or wear anything that is based on an animal by-product. For example, a true vegan does not purchase leather, some types of makeup and fur. This gives a vegan the feeling that they are positively contributing to a cause.
* Lower blood pressure, risk of heart disease, and lower cholesterol are all healthy side effects of a vegan diet.
* Vitamins such as C and E as well as magnesium, iron and folic acid are found in plant-based foods in a vegan diet.
* Lower saturated fat, a lower obesity rate, and fewer calories are also benefits of a vegan diet.
As you can see, a plant-based vegan diet has many benefits for your health. Vegan diets also have the added bonus of variety. There are so many combinations of soy-based products and vegetables as well as meat-like foods such as veggie patties to keep you healthy and satisfied in your vegan endeavors.
Whole grains are extremely nutritious offering benefits such as:
* Maintaining weight
* Fighting off heart disease
* Keeping the cholesterol level low
* Maintaining regularity
* Keeping a healthy metabolism
Fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and iron are just a few of the extra value-packed nutritional benefits of grains.
Many people are aware of the most common grains but may not be as privy to the ones that are a little more unusual. If you are aware of the power that these grains pack, you would be sure to include them into your daily diet.
Quinoa is a grain that resembles a combination of grain and rice. The history of quinoa dates all the way back to the Inca civilization. The Incas considered it to be a sacred grain and for a very good reason. Quinoa is packed with protein. It is also full of fiber. Quinoa is a perfect way to start your morning, and the fibre will help you feel full for the day.
You can add things such as chicken broth and eat it for lunch, or add some honey and maple syrup with cinnamon for a tasty and nutritional-packed breakfast.
Spelt is an older form of the wheat crop mainly found in Europe, but since it needs very little in the way of fertilizer, many who are interested in organic eating and growing are bringing this grain back into popularity again.
A great reason to eat spelt is, of course, its nutritional value – ranging from high in protein to high in fiber. Spelt has a deliciously sweet and nutty flavor that when used in bread instead of traditional grain gives it an extra added value in taste that cannot be replicated.
Kasha is a traditional Russian meal that once was only used for fancy occasions such as royal feasts and weddings. The Russians knew what they were doing when they served kasha. As roasted, hulled buckwheat, kasha holds the mother load of nutrients and vitamins such as potassium, calcium, B vitamins, phosphorus, and iron. Incorporating this grain into your diet offers you a one-two punch for your immune system.
Just like the Incas and their quinoa, the ancient Aztecs knew that chia was a powerful substance and main staple for their diet. Chia is super packed with Omega 3s, loaded with protein, and one of the lowest carbohydrate grains. For this reason, many athletes are turning to chia as part of their daily winning game. Being high in antioxidants increases the value of chia in your diet as well.
The ancient Aztecs also knew that this grain was valuable to them. They not only included it into their everyday diets but also offered it as part of various rituals and ceremonies. Plant proteins, amino acids, lysine, calcium, and iron as well as a high fiber content make this particular grain the one that has it all.
As you can see, ancient cultures knew that these grains packed everything they needed to be warriors of their time. We have these grains available to us today and can achieve the same goal of being warriors throughout our day as well.
Emotional overeating can seem like a prison with no way out, and when you do think of seeking treatment, it can seem too overwhelming to consider. Sometimes it helps to have some simple steps and treatment programs laid out clearly, so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Following is a list of common treatment options for emotional overeating disorder, as well as some tips on things you can do and some cautions on what not to do.
First, recognize your problem. Know you’re not alone – the number of people who suffer from emotional overeating disorder is significant.
* Counseling – Individual, group, or family counseling can prove very helpful for people who experience emotional overeating. Counseling treatment usually involves some nutritional and dietary guidelines and treatment of underlying emotional problems.
* Surgery – This is a somewhat controversial treatment for emotional overeating – it addresses the physical aspect of the problem rather than the emotional. However, in combination with emotional therapy and extensive medical counseling, surgery is a viable choice for some sufferers. Usually, surgical options involve decreasing the space available in the stomach, usually by a lap-band or gastric bypass procedure.
* Medication – Under the care of a professional, medications – usually anti-depressants – have been shown to provide relief for many who suffer from emotional overeating. This may be due to the suspected connection between overeating and depression – research continues to point to the relationship between the two problems.
Tips – What You Can Do
* Exercise regularly – Yes, you’ve heard this one, but it’s really an important aspect of managing emotional overeating. Exercise may improve mood, improve energy levels, and increase your self-image – all part of overcoming emotional overeating. You can start with just 20 minutes of brisk walking three to six times a week.
* Eat well – What you do eat is as important as what you’re “not allowed” to eat! Sometimes, emotional overeaters can be overcome by cravings for certain “forbidden” foods, like ice cream, candy bars, and potato chips. But if you’re full of and surrounded by healthy foods, you can dig in without feeling guilty. Keep fresh produce on hand and eat lots of lean protein, veggies, fruits, and whole grains.
What Not to Do
* Keep unhealthy snacks handy – If you don’t have the unhealthy food in the house, you will probably be less likely to head for it in times of emotional distress. In other words, make it hard on yourself to get the foods you want to eat when feeling bad – cross ice cream, junk foods, and fatty snacks off your grocery list.
* Crash diet – Trying to starve yourself or go on an extended fast is not recommended. You may compromise yourself nutritionally and/or physically, and crash dieting tends to result in more overeating afterward.
Emotional overeating disorders can be difficult and devastating for those who suffer from them. What makes this happen? Why is it that some people, knowingly or unknowingly, turn to food for comfort? Here are some thoughts and ideas on those questions.
Emotional overeating disorder is a general term that refers to any of various eating habits where genuine hunger is not the motivational factor. It is more common among women than men, but men are not immune – especially young men in their teens and twenties. Those who suffer from this disorder associate food with emotional comfort, and will turn to eating to escape negative feelings.
For some with emotional overeating disorder, the problem stems from past traumatic events. Someone who suffered sexual abuse, for example, or some other kind of sexual trauma may overeat in response to feelings of anxiety and confusion. The result is a fatter body, which some sources suggest may cause the sufferer to feel “protected” from being attractive to the opposite sex. Subconsciously or consciously, the sufferer wants to be unattractive. Other examples of past trauma or unmet needs may cause a person to turn to emotional overeating.
People who suffer from low self-esteem and a negative self-image may seek escape by overeating. In a way, emotional overeating is a physical expression of what the sufferer feels inside, and the resulting weight projects the same image of self-disrespect.
Like alcoholics, those who struggle with emotional overeating may be unconsciously using food as a drug. Eating numbs or dulls the emotions that might be too hard to deal with otherwise.
Studies indicate a strong correlation between depression and emotional overeating. Ironically, sometimes as depression grows worse a sufferer loses weight; weight loss means the sufferer is not eating as much, and therefore not engaging in his or her coping mechanism.
Prolonged, unrelieved stress can have a profound effect on the body. Stress stimulates the body to produce, among other chemicals, the hormone cortisol. Cortisol apparently has a hunger-stimulating effect, and as the stressful emotions increase along with the cortisol, a cycle of emotional eating can play out.
There are triggers or causes of emotional overeating that are not necessarily in the categories above. Some examples might be:
* Oral need or a need to satisfy your mouth’s need to do something
* Social pressure or embarrassment at eating in public, resulting in overeating in private
* Financial stress
* Relationship difficulties
If you have trouble with emotional overeating, you may have considered weight loss surgery of some sort. But how do you know if it’s for you? What kinds of surgery options are available? Here are some ideas as to the more common surgical options currently available and some of the better-known pros and cons associated with them.
This is a type of restrictive weight loss surgery, and it is adjustable. A silicon doughnut or ring is placed around the top of the stomach, leaving a small pouch above the ring. This is where the food goes first, and the pouch, being so small, fills up quickly. The person feels full on less food, in other words. Slowly, the food makes its way from the pouch into the main stomach.
The doctor or surgeon may, from time to time, inject saline into the ring in order to inflate it, thus decreasing the pouch’s capacity even further. The opposite can be done as well.
* It’s adjustable, as noted above – fluid can be removed or injected into the ring.
* The digestive process is not compromised; food is digested “the usual way.”
* The surgical procedure is usually done laproscopically, meaning it’s minimally invasive.
* Additional surgery may be required in the case of twisting of the access port or perforation of the stomach.
* Weight loss tends to be rather slow and gradual, and not as dramatic as some other options.
* Repeated follow-up visits with your doctor are required.
2. Gastric Bypass
This is what’s known as a malabsorptive technique. In gastric bypass surgery, a small pouch is created at the top of the stomach using “staples” rather than a ring. Then part of the small intestine is re-routed to connect to this pouch, essentially creating a permanently smaller stomach. It is called “bypass” surgery because food bypasses the rest of the stomach and the original small intestine connection, called the duodenum.
* Weight loss tends to be significant and permanent.
* Mild side effects, such as heartburn, tend to be resolved easily.
* Compromised nutrient absorption is a significant concern, and patients are generally required to take many supplements to prevent nutritional deficiency.
* Dumping syndrome, or a too-fast emptying of stomach contents, is a potentially difficult side effect.
* It’s harder for doctors to view the stomach and intestine via endoscopy, meaning cancer and other problems may go undetected.
These are just two of the more common types of weight loss surgery. The bottom line is, weight loss surgery can help with the weight gain and excessive caloric intake associated with emotional overeating, but it does not address the underlying emotional issues. If you do choose some sort of surgery to treat emotional overeating, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s part of a “whole person” treatment plan that includes counseling and emotional therapy.
Weight gain is frustrating enough, but when you can’t seem to identify the cause(s) of it, the frustration is compounded. Emotional overeating is a somewhat sneaky problem – because it can involve mindless eating, it’s the sort of thing that can occur without you realizing it. If you are having trouble figuring out what’s causing your weight gain, here are some tips on identifying emotional overeating (as opposed to just overeating).
Seemingly Unexplainable Weight Gain
If you are gaining weight and you can’t seem to figure out why, this is (ironically) a sign that the problem may lie with emotional overeating. As noted above, you often don’t know you’re doing it when it comes to emotional overeating. You may even be working out regularly and preparing healthy meals and still gaining weight, because you are mindlessly eating other foods when you feel negative emotions.
A Sudden Urge
Sources say that emotional “hunger” comes on quite suddenly, perhaps in the form of an irresistible craving for a certain food or just the urge to eat right now. True hunger is usually more gradual than that – unless you have low blood sugar or have gone a very long time without eating, true hunger does not usually take the form of an urgent need to eat a whole lot right away.
More and more the connection between emotional overeating and depression is being discovered. Do you feel depressed periodically? When you even think of feeling depressed, what goes through your mind? How do you cope? If you are picturing a big serving of your favorite comfort food, then this may be a sign that your overeating is emotion-based.
Are you going through a stressful time in your life simultaneous to your weight gain? Have you seen that pattern before? Stress, with its accompanying anxiety and other negative feelings, can trigger someone to overeat in response to those feelings.
How do you feel after you eat? Are you consumed with guilt? Do you feel ashamed? These feelings are signs that you have a problem with emotional overeating. Normal eating to satisfy normal hunger does not make a person feel guilty.
As many parents know, genuine hunger usually means that you’re more open to various food options. In emotional overeating, though, cravings may be so specific that no other food will do to satisfy your “hunger.” You feel like you have to have that particular food to feel satisfied.
Emotional overeating is almost a joke in our society – movies, TV shows, and the resulting stereotypes cause many of us to laugh about how much ice cream it takes to get over a boyfriend, or how much chocolate we need to overcome rejection. But for those who actually suffer from emotional overeating, it’s anything but funny.
First, it helps to be honest with yourself and identify if you have this problem or not. Here are some tips to help you know if you are an emotional overeater or not.
1. Keep a food diary. In this diary, in addition to noting everything you eat, also note how you feel when you eat – sad, angry, upset, elated, joyful, etc. Don’t judge yourself or make any changes to your habits when you begin keeping this diary; you’re not trying to impress anyone or prove anything. You are trying to get an honest picture of your eating habits. After several weeks, a pattern will probably emerge.
2. Are you under a lot of stress? Do you find that you gain weight when under stress? There are other factors that can come into play, of course, causing you to gain weight. But this is something to consider if you are trying to figure out if you have an emotional overeating problem or not.
3. Get advice from a therapist or specialist if you really want to find out if you are a victim of emotional overeating.
How Can It Be Overcome?
If you have identified emotional overeating as something you suffer from, you may benefit from some tips on overcoming this problem. Here are some to consider.
1. Seek stress relief
If you overeat in response to stress, it makes sense to find alternative ways to relieve and manage that stress. Meditation, Yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and other regular forms of exercise and relaxation techniques can help alleviate the stress that is triggering your overeating.
2. Swap goodies for goodies
Try to find substitutions for the comfort foods or food rewards you seek when you are feeling positive or negative emotions. Having something in place already is key – keep a list handy or other reminder that will prompt you to turn to the alternative rather than the candy bar. (Some alone time, a short walk, reading a magazine or book for pleasure, doing your nails, etc. are all little emotional pick-me-ups that you can implement in place of food.)
3. Why am I doing this?
Before eating, ask yourself why you are doing it. Do you feel genuinely hungry? If you’re truly hungry, you may feel fatigued and, of course, feel hunger in your stomach. Ask yourself if you really feel hungry or if you are seeking an energy boost or a calming effect instead.
While many of us stock up our pantry in case of an emergency, very few of us think about stocking up a healthy food pantry. Sometimes food that is bought for the sole purpose of storing in a pantry for future use is not always the healthiest choice we can make.
However, there are several foods that are wonderful choices for both healthy and “in case of a pinch” pantry situations. Stocking your pantry with these items will make healthy cooking easy.
Possibly the number one food that should be in anyone’s pantry is the bean. Kidney beans, cannellini beans, lentils, and navy beans are only a few among the vast variety of beans. Beans contain large quantities of protein while offering just as much variety to any meal. Beans can be used as main ingredients in dishes such as casseroles or as a topping to a salad. Used in Mexican dishes such as a Tex-Mex bean dip or as part of a fajita, beans add flavor, variety, and protein. Beans can certainly take the place of fatty red meats in some recipes while never losing an ounce of flavor.
Whole Wheat Pasta
We all know the benefits of adding whole grain into our diet. Yet another added benefit of whole wheat pasta is that it is so versatile and can help us put together a quick meal in a pinch. Whole wheat pasta offers bran, fiber, antioxidants, and all-important B vitamins.
When your pantry is stocked with whole wheat pasta, the possibilities are endless. You could toss some broccoli and shrimp together with whole grain spaghetti, add a salad, and have a delectable meal in minutes. Perhaps some sun dried tomatoes and chicken tossed with some whole wheat pasta is just the thing for your family.
Whole Grain Cereals
Cereals that are high in fiber and low in sugar are the best staple any pantry could boast. Fiber keeps your stomach full and can jump-start your day getting you healthfully on your way.
Olive oil has been used for centuries to provide high quality, excellent taste, and health benefits. With olive oil as a staple in your pantry, you will find its uses endless. Olive oil is useful for frying skinless, boneless chicken, for tossing on salad and even as a concoction for dipping your whole grain bread. The health benefits that olive oil provides far outweigh its cost.
Canned goods are an immediate staple of any pantry. However, be careful of what is in those canned goods. Look for low-salt canned goods such as diced tomatoes. Canned salmon is an excellent source of protein and provides necessary Omega 3s, while broths that come in the low sodium variety are easily added to any recipe.
These are just a few of the staples that can get every pantry up and running to a healthy start.