If you (or someone you know) is one of those who eat their feelings, read this.
Do you indulge your cravings when feeling low? (Photo: stokkete / www.123rf.com)
This will sound familiar if you’re one of them emotional eaters: You indulge in unhealthy foods or cravings when stressed or frustrated (read: negative emotions), but a vicious cycle occurs because it makes you feel even worse afterwards that you’ve derailed your own diet. (Unsure if you’re an emotional eater? Keep a weight watcher diary to track your mood and cravings to see if any patterns arise. It might belie a more worrying condition – binge eating disorder, where you suffer from uncontrollable and compulsive overeating.)
Instead of completely giving up after a single slip up because you feel overwhelmed with guilt, consider this. In a 2013 study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, about 40 per cent of 1,447 female college students confessed to overeating – mostly because they couldn’t help it, and not because they were hungry.
Also, your diet could also be triggering those negative feelings – especially if you’ve been avoiding starchy dishes. “Foods that are high in carbohydrates tend to make one feel good, so when you skip it completely, you’re likely to get upset more easily,” explains Magdalin Cheong, chief dietitian at Changi General Hospital.
How to overcome emotional eating
Make a plan to check your emotions and manage those negative feelings without turning to binge eating or unhealthy cravings. This could include talking to a close friend or a counseller.
Diet-wise, try these rather than giving in to that tub of ice cream or potato chips. Instead of swearing off carbs, go for small amounts, and complete each meal with protein, fruits and vegetables. “These provide bulk and give a sense of fullness,” says Magdalin. Weight watchers, consider rewarding yourself once a week with either a spa treat or a small portion of your favourite comfort food, so you won’t feel deprived. See here for other tips to stop food cravings.
Lastly, avoid stepping on the scales too often, even though you are trying to lose weight – limit this to just once a week. “Weighing yourself daily can be discouraging, especially since you won’t see a significant difference so quickly,” adds Magdalin.