Want to Try Intuitive Eating? 7 Steps to Address Emotional Eating First by Dr. Bradley Nelson
Emotions influence our eating behaviors in complex and subtle ways, and emotional eating is linked to obesity, research has found. Intuitive eating involves people learning to listen to their bodies to decide what, when and how much to eat. This is something I teach people to do – but only after they have addressed the emotional triggers behind their eating. So why do people need to address the underlying reasons why they eat before they try intuitive eating?
Human society is programmed to eat for a huge variety of non-nutritive reasons. We eat for fun. We eat to socialize. We eat because the TV is on. We eat because the clock says it’s time. And for a lot of us, we eat to subconsciously – or even consciously – medicate our emotions.
First Things First: Overcome Emotional Eating
Before you can learn to eat intuitively with consistency, assess whether you have any tendency to eat emotionally. Here are my top tips to address emotional eating:
- “This Too Shall Pass”: If you can resist the urge to eat for even 15 minutes, the feelings that are driving you to crave something might subside. At that point, you can decide if you’re physically hungry or eating for some other reason.
- Keep a Food Diary: Keep a special notebook to write down what you eat, how much and how you’re feeling while you’re eating. Note how hungry your body is. This can help you identify triggers and create an awareness of why you’re eating.
- Create New Habits: Instead of going for the chips when a family member yells at you or just because you’re bored, try doing something else that actually makes you feel better. Go for a walk. Read a book. Write in your journal.
- Manage Stress: Stress is a common driver of emotional eating, but there are many more productive ways to handle it. Try some yoga, deep breathing exercises or meditation. Keeping your stress level manageable can help you avoid emotional eating.
- Don’t Punish Yourself: It may be tempting to punish yourself with deprivation when you’ve eaten emotionally. But that usually backfires into a cycle of emotional eating. Instead of depriving yourself or dieting, eat foods that offer real satisfaction and nutrition. Your body may respond with a happier outlook that helps you eat more intuitively.
- Release Trapped Emotions: Mastering your emotions might be your best defense against emotional eating. Try using The Emotion Code to identify and release Trapped Emotions, unresolved feelings from troubling and traumatic events that could cause you to eat when you don’t really need to.
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