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We all do it from time to time; get home and night and feel like heading straight for the biscuits, crisps or a deliciously refreshing glass of wine. This dash for the treats cupboard could be fuelled by many different factors, like a stressful day at work or something that is worrying us in particular. It’s all part of what is known as ‘emotional eating’. It may seem like an overused Oprah-esque chat show line, but emotions and brain chemistry play a part in many of the ways we choose to approach food. Contrary to what many people may believe, it’s not always food that’s the problem when it comes to being overweight or obese; it’s the things that make us turn to food, and what food symbolises for us.
If you are an emotional eater like I am, you might find the following tips helpful:
If you are going through a really stressful time, you have emotional issues or you think you may have unresolved problems from your childhood, it might be worth speaking to someone about it, such as a counsellor or psychologist. It’s not a quick fix, but a long term commitment, but it could help you deal better with future problems of a similar nature, so that they are less likely to become overwhelming, causing you to turn to food. Many types of counselling are free on the NHS, or you could choose to speak to someone privately.
It might be helpful to keep a journal of what you eat and what emotions caused you to eat even though you aren’t hungry. If it’s bad feelings that make you eat and you eat a whole plate of chips, and you just end up feeling bad, you are just perpetuating the emotion that causes you to eat. Question whether there are other ways in which you can help you feel better, it might not feel like it at the time, but a 10 minute walk might be a better way to cheer yourself up, because of the happy endorphins it helps your body to release. Every food you eat might have an alternate ‘meaning’, which can be addressed.
According to research, we are less inclined to eat if we get a good night’s sleep. The research by the University of Columbia showed that people who managed to sleep for up to 9 hours ate between 200 to 350 less calories a day. It’s believed that the reason for this might be the fact that an ‘awake’ brain is more likely to make good judgement decisions as opposed to overtired ones. There is also a theory that the quick fixes (i.e. energy drinks) people use to help them stay away are high in calories, and also promote further sleeplessness. On a more practical note, they say that more hours spent sleeping mean less lucid hours to be tempted by food.
It sounds like a broken record, but you shouldn’t deprive yourself! Have a bit of chocolate when you want it instead of allowing the urge to build up into a massive craving when you feel stressed or threatened. If you deprive yourself of food, it can cause you to become unnecessarily preoccupied with it, which can do more damage than good. So if you are worried that cravings might get the better of you, allow yourself to have some in moderation, or simply have something nice and healthy as an alternative waiting in your cupboard.
These points are just suggestions, so if you feel that you really need an extra hand in coping with something that is bothering you now or something that has been causing you to have an unhealthy relationship with food for a long while, then it’s worth going to your doctor and getting the help you need.