Suppose you have the healthiest set of habits you’ve ever had. You’re eating more veggies than Bugs Bunny. Your sleep is so consistent that the neighbor’s rooster doesn’t get up until you do. You exercise so often that your gym shoes start lacing themselves. It’s tough to think that something could still get in your way.
Something can, and often does: Emotional Eating.
Emotional eating is possibly the #1 enemy of continued healthy living. Sometimes, we eat for the strangest reasons. A bad day at work may escalate with a bag of chips on the couch. An argument may drive you to the fridge to calm down. A rough round of golf may lead to a chili dog and a beer in the clubhouse.
You’re almost done with Stage 3, and your lifestyle is in the middle of changing for the better. You’ve worked hard to improve day-to-day actions that point you in the right direction. As you continue to master these habits, you should be ready to tackle some of the reasons behind possible emotional eating pitfalls. You can – and should – eliminate emotional eating triggers so they no longer have a chance to sabotage your lifestyle and weight loss success.
Emotional eating is a common problem. In fact, it has been estimated that 75% of weight gain is due to emotional or mindless eating.
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the root of these types of problems. (Who knows why the floor of your car may be covered in Snickers wrappers?) But you can take some real, concrete steps to drive the problems out from the shadows and squish them like bugs.
1. Recognize the Problem
You may be an emotional eater and not even know it. Ask yourself a few questions: Do I often graze for no real reason, even though I’m not hungry? Have I found myself in front of an open fridge and not known why? Do I react to stress by opening my mouth and sticking an eating utensil in it? Do I seem to gain weight when I’m going through hectic periods in my life?
2. Investigate and Identify Trigger Times
Become aware of danger times and situations. Is coming home from work often an emotional time for you? A visit with the in-laws? Talking with an ex? Do these times overlap with unhealthy eating episodes? The best way to figure this out is to carefully track your reasons for eating. Hopefully, hunger is the most common reason; but if there are other reasons, they probably coincide with a trigger time that you can plan for.
3. Look at Reasons Why These Triggers Have Power
The root of emotional eating often lies in bigger picture questions. Are you going through a stressful period at work, at home, with your marriage, or in some other way? Have you had a recent failure that is crushing your self-esteem? Are you unhappy with your day-to-day life? Have you gone through a traumatic experience, such as a death, divorce, bankruptcy or layoff?
4. Take it One Trigger At a Time
Write in your online journal how each or any of these larger life issues may be affecting your food choices and motivation. First, figure out how to recognize when the issue is about to trigger emotional eating and how to neutralize it. Then, think about what steps you can take to keep the issue from having a hold on you at all. Focus on one at a time, and be patient and generous with yourself. This may take some time.
Emotional eating triggers are problems that have no easy answers, but ignoring them may make things worse. Until you deal with deeper issues, you may continue your ride on the dieting roller coaster, no matter how hard you try to keep your healthy habits alive. You can do it!
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