Emotional eating, depression, and obesity are a vicious cycle. You get upset, you eat because you’re upset, then you’re upset because you have overeaten.
Food becomes a temporary relief—almost like an analgesic—for the emotional pain. Yet while it may numb, or even relieve it for a short while, the rebound is often much worse.
Yet there are ways to break the cycle. Breaking out of the food medicating hamster-wheel is not easy, but particularly with the support of family and friends and a knowledgeable dietitian, it is absolutely do-able.
Tips from a Bariatric Surgeon in Oklahoma
One of the most fundamentally helpful things you can do is learn how to determine when your body is hungry versus when your mind is sending your body sneaky signals.
How to Determine the Source of Your Hunger:
It can be difficult to determine where the cravings are coming from. Here are a few tips:
Pay attention to how you’re feeling
- Do a quick self scan to see if any physical symptoms of hunger are prevalent, such as hollow stomach, hunger pangs, stomach growling or rumbling, or even a slight light-headedness.
- Am I thirsty? Many times hunger can be mistaken for thirst! If you are thirsty, drink some water. Then wait a bit, and see if you’re still hungry.
Be wary of situational hunger “triggers”
Not unlike Pavlov’s Dogs, we have been conditioned by our culture to feel hunger at certain triggers. If your alleged hunger coincides with passing the food court at the mall, think twice. It’s ok to keep walking. You can always come back later if it turns out you were hungry.
What to do when Overwhelmed by Food Cravings
Eating in response to stress or pain is a form of distracting oneself from the deep “hurt.” Not only does it perpetuate the cycle, but it also does not allow for the emotion to run its full course.
Accept your State of Mind
As difficult as feelings of panic and despair are to endure, they are part of the full spectrum of human emotions. Taking a deep breath and allowing yourself to ride out the wave of pain actually allows for you to come to terms with it, to confront your fears.
Substitute Eating Impulses with Healthy Behaviors
- Need something in mouth → Try a mint, a piece of gum, or even ice
- Feeling antsy → Try going for a short walk
- Feeling lonely → Try calling up a friend or family member
- Feeling tired → Try a cup of tea or decaffeinated coffee
Instead of beating yourself up for feeling hungry, try and take a mindful approach to what you’re facing. Allowing yourself to feel whatever emotion the craving is trying to make up for is the first step to harnessing your hunger. Once you are to view your emotions as a natural part of you, rather than something you must try and squash, you will be more apt to effectively control hunger impulses.
Curbing your impulses in this way will pave way for you to make more conscious choices about what you eat, so that you can be the master of your food, rather than the other way around.
For additional information on techniques to mindfully adapt your eating patterns, this article from Bariatric Times is quite helpful.