I eat healthy and exercise but I’ll admit it: I’m an emotional eater.
When my kids have a meltdown, ask “mommy…can I….fill in the blank?” for the hundredth time that day, or when I’m worried about something else in my life, my cortisol ramps up and I head into the kitchen and use food to cope with my feelings.
Eating makes me feel better, but of course it’s only temporary so I often get more food to get that “high.” It’s a dangerous downward spiral and when I’ve eaten too much, I gain weight and beat myself up.
You would think I would be able to cope with emotional eating. As a journalist, I’ve had access to some of the best experts in the field like Cleveland Clinic clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Albers author of “50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food,” and I’ve written about emotional eating for Fox News.
I’ve tried to drink water, make a cup of soothing tea, or take deep breaths. In recent months, I’ve been able to take control of my bad habits but I’ve been an emotional eater my whole life so it’s still something I deal with.
Moms Eat To Cope With Stress
Being a mom is the hardest job you’ll ever have and our generation of moms has a lot on their plates.
Even if you don’t work full-time, 62 percent of you work for about 4 hours a day from home and contribute to the household income in some way, a survey by Redbook magazine found.
Add to that wiping tears and giving hugs, teaching life lessons, kindness, manners and responsibility, shuttling kids to after-school activities, cooking, cleaning and the long list of to-do’s you do on any given day and you’re stressed out. That stress can quickly take its toll on you and lead you right to the kitchen too.
In fact, 31 percent of women eat to manage stress, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.
Stop Emotional Eating Today
Although you may not always be able to change your stress level right away, you can change how to cope with stress and choose to take eating as a coping mechanism off the table. Curbing emotional eating will help you lose weight, feel more in control of your feelings and show your kids how to cope with their emotions without food as well.
1. Follow your hunger cues
When you want to grab something to eat, first think about whether you’re actually hungry or not. If you’re not having hunger pains and your stomach isn’t growling, you’re not hungry. If you can’t decide, drink a large bottle of water since dehydration can often feel like hunger.
2. Get more sleep
If you’re up with your kids at night or your partner snores, it can be hard to get a good night’s rest. Without enough sleep however, ghrelin and leptin—two hormones that affect appetite—can become unbalanced and cause you to eat more. Sleep can be hard to come by, but do your best to turn in earlier or nap if you can.
3. Close the kitchen
I’m not suggesting you put a padlock on your refrigerator, but something that has worked for me is telling myself “the kitchen is now closed” or making a decision not to eat after a certain time. After dinner, I allow myself to return to set the coffee maker for the next day but I do my best not to eat anything else afterwards.
4. Distract yourself
To avoid stress eating, have a list of things you can do before your emotions feel overwhelming. Try going for a walk or to the gym, paint your nails, doodle in a notebook listen to music or have sex with your partner.
5. Identify your feelings
If you’re not hungry, but you want to eat, think about what you’re hungry for. If you’re lonely for example, invite your friends and their kids over for a play date or call a friend to chat. If you’re worried about something, quickly jot down your thoughts in a notebook.
6. Take a bite
When all else fails, instead of telling yourself you can’t eat, which will only make you want to, give yourself permission to take a bite. The key however, is to eat mindfully so you won’t overeat. Sit down at the table, use a plate, take small bites, eat slowly and savor each one. Chances are, a few bites will be all you’ll need to curb the craving.
How do you cope with emotional eating?