Monday, December 16, 2013

8 Steps for Fighting Emotional Eating

I wish I was a nutrition counselor/expert. But I'm not. Everything I have listed below is either what I've been told by a dear friend of mine who is a nutrition counselor, or discovered through my own trial and error.

Here's a short/condensed version of this if you'd prefer, and hey, you get to "meet" me! :)

The first step is admitting you have a problem - here's the problem I have with that: so many of us freely admit that we struggle with emotional eating, mindless eating, or even binge eating. The question is: what is the next step?

I was told to consult a nutrition expert - but I also didn't have good insurance (or any, really), or the means to pay such expert. So I have fought my way through this and here is what I've found: I am the only one who can really control what I eat, how often I eat, and what I am CONSCIOUSLY eating. That may sound too simple, but it's not - many of us, once we start that downward spiral of eating to feed a feeling, realize that it's not something we can just snap out of. It controls us.

One of the worst feelings is after a binge: we feel disgusted, bloated, gross, unattractive, and wonder what is wrong with us! SO - what's the solution? To be honest, I'm not so sure there is one. It's a constant fight for me still, and I've been battling it for over two years now. But I've listed below simple steps we can each take to help control our impulses - again, I'm no expert - but I have found that these steps have helped me maintain control of my eating habits. I still slip up, I'm human, and I have that problem, but I'm nowhere near where I was a year ago!

Step #1: Plan your meals in advance. I probably shouldn't start with this one, as people get scared when it comes to meal planning, but it's truly not that difficult. It takes some getting used to, but it really does take the guesswork out of your meals! If you work full-time, plan on Sundays or the day before you start back to work. Get everything ready so you don't reach for the cookies instead of the sandwich you already have prepped and ready to go. Plan the time of day you will eat and do not veer from that time! Use Michi's Ladder as a guideline for what food to eat at each meal. Stick to the first 2 - 3 tiers and you will see a difference!

Step #2: Always eat sitting down. I have the bad habit (still) of grabbing food as I'm making a meal (example: I'll grab a few sweet potato fries before they end up on the table). The result is that I'm not as hungry when I sit down, but I still eat because, well, it's a chance to eat! Don't set yourself up for failure! Designate a time to eat each meal, and sit down for the full meal!

Step #3: Never multitask while eating your meal! This includes checking email at your computer, watching TV, etc. So many bad habits have become the norm over the past few years - families eat in front of the television every night, working moms (I've been guilty of this myself) eat in front of the computer - the result? We are not really experiencing our food! Sit down. Focus on eating your food. Enjoy it. Then when you're done, clean up and move on to the next task.

Step #4: Feel your emotions. I mean really, feel them. Don't eat to feed a feeling, as I and so many others (maybe you) struggle with. If you're feeling angry or frustrated with your kids, experience that feeling! Take a walk, lock yourself in your room and scream, do something productive to distract you, go outside with your kids, do SOMETHING to distract you from the urge to eat! It's so easy - as a mom to a very high-maintenance little boy - to grab chocolate out of the pantry, or eat a piece of bread, or whatever happens to be on hand. Fight it! That's why my blog is named what it is! FIGHT. IT.

Step #5: Take the processed junk OUT of your house. Throw away the twinkies and the ho-ho's and all the food-like products that aren't really food. Check out Michi's Ladder above, learn what foods you should be eating, and stock up on those foods! If you don't have the crap in your house, you can't binge on it!

Step #6: Be PATIENT with yourself. You are human! You're going to mess up every so often! Just don't make it a habit again. Work hard to fight your way out of the emotional eating and remind yourself of how hard you worked once you feel better, and once you have a grasp on your eating habits. It's too easy to get comfortable and slip up and find yourself right back to where you were before. It's OK to mess up - just don't stay there! And LEARN from those lapses! Did you binge because you skipped a snack or because you were frustrated with the kids? Think seriously about ho you would do things differently next time. Every single setback is an opportunity to learn to do things better.

Step #7: Identify your triggers! If you don't know what they are, you can't avoid or change your reaction to them. A great example is that if you eat when you're bored, make a list of alternative activities you'll try next time. 

ok, and I have to add in an unexpected Step 8:

Step #8: Keep yourself accountable! This means being open and upfront and HONEST about your struggles. And I don't mean telling people who want to see you fail and want to see you miserable (because we all know those people are out there and they surround us). Find someone who truly cares about you and wants to see you succeed. Confide in that person, and work with them towards reaching your goal of beating this thing! Or - dare I say - better yet, join one of my challenge groups for DAILY accountability. Believe me when I say, it helps to have someone rooting for you that has the same goals that you do!

FIGHT. IT. Nobody else can do it for you!


  1. so true, all of the above. thanks for making this list, i have read similar lists but it always helps to remind ourselves of the ways in which we can take control of our lives. i struggle constantly with emotional eating and i'm constantly reminding myself of these things (don't eat standing up - a very common habit of a chef!). i wish there was a magic wand i could wave that would make me stop binge eating when i am emotionally stressed. sigh, no magic wand. just patience and hard work and determination...

    1. You know, I have tried and quit so many times - It is a constant mindset! You have got this, and so do I! :)