3 Simple Steps to Stop Emotionally Eating

Jul 02, 2022  -  Nutrition & Wellness

Emotional eating is way more common than you may think. We have become very impulsive and ones who seek instant gratification. It has become normal to go for that quick fix to make yourself feel better or to lose weight quicker or simply just to lose weight as fast as possible. If you think about it, how many of you give into your cravings as soon as they come on? How many of you can't reach your goals, whatever they are, fast enough? I bet most of you are silently agreeing with me right now. But hey, as I said earlier, this has become the norm so you are not the only one! 

I know most of you have likely heard me say this before but I feel it important that I say it again. I am of the belief that we are inherently emotional eaters. It is the way our bodies respond to emotions and certain situations that drive cravings. Now, while we can't control how our bodies are wired, we can control how we respond. We can avoid being so quick to give into our impulses. To being so quick to give into our cravings. To being so quick to seek that quick fix or instant gratification. It is hard to rewire the brain, I know, but it is 100% possible with time, effort, and persistence. 

Let me share a quick story with you. I was sitting on my couch feeling super anxious and felt the cravings and negative self talk creeping in. This, the negative self talk that is, used to happen quite often for me prior to going through Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Prior to CBT, I wouldn't be able to control my anxious behaviors and would more often than not ignore them in hopes that they would eventually go away and leave me alone. Next thing you know I am eating an entire pumpkin pie by myself on Thanksgiving morning while I was still on Active Duty. I would eat a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream by myself with no problem whatsoever. It was so easy. It was not only so easy to consume those foods while I was in my own head, but it was easy to turn to those foods. That is what your body is telling you that you want. Again, it comes back to instant gratification. But that was the old me. You might be asking yourself, well Nicole, what did the new you do? Well, I am glad you asked! 

The new me is now able to control my behaviors in a healthier way and I no longer shun my thoughts or feelings. I welcome them with open arms and work through it. So, let's bring things back to when I was sitting on my couch recently and felt the anxiety and negative self talk quietly knocking at my front door. How did I handle it this time? Well, after I opened the door and welcomed them in with open arms, I quickly went through 3 simple steps that allowed me to avoid my urges to go to the kitchen and grab something sweet. I use the acronym SAT because it is easy to remember. 

1 - Stop

Again, we are so quick to make that impulsive decision. Go against what your instincts want you to do by taking a moment to stop rather than make that split second instant decision. By allowing yourself to stop, you will give yourself time to shift from the irrational to the rational brain which will allow you to think a bit clearer. Stop and take a breath. That's all it takes to start calming down and shifting from irrational or impulse to rational thought. Sounds simple, right? In theory, yes it is super simple. Putting it to practice, on the other hand, not so simple. In the beginning you will find that you may have to do this on a hyper awareness level and it might even be an internal struggle, but over time it will become easier and easier. Don't give up the good fight! 

2 - Assess

In case you haven't seen any of my posts on emotional vs. physical hunger, let me quickly explain. What I want you to do here in step 2 is to assess your hunger. Are you truly hungry or are you emotionally hungry? Are you about to seek food for comfort or to fill a void? How do you tell the difference you might be asking? Great question! Emotional hunger comes about suddenly with little to no warning. You crave only specific foods, most likely sugary and salty foods. You may even feel guilt or shame after eating. Physical hunger or true hunger, on the other hand, comes about gradually and you crave a wide variety of foods. You are less likely to feel any guilt or shame after eating. Now that you understand on a basic level the difference between emotional and physical hunger, you are now in a better position to assess your hunger. Think to yourself, what types of foods are you craving? Did your hunger happen suddenly? Was there a certain event or emotion that triggered your hunger or cravings? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you are emotionally hungry and were about to turn to food to comfort you.  

3 - Take Action 

Now that you stopped and assessed your hunger it is time to take action. And by action I don't mean to eat! The best first step to take in advance to be prepared is to create a list. Create a list of your top 3 activities that you enjoy doing and bring you joy. For me, it is working out or writing. This time around when I was sitting on my couch working through these steps, I turned to writing. Writing is a good way to quickly shift your focus and has been a successful tool for me thus far. What does that look like for you? It could be something as simple as taking a walk, writing, journaling, listening to your favorite music, reading a favorite book, phoning a friend, and the list is endless. So, create that list. Use that list. Stick to that list. This list will become your lifeline when you are in a pinch. You got this! 

I truly hope these 3 simple steps, SAT, work for you and you are able to put them to practice. Just know that your impulses and instincts to your emotions are normal and you aren't alone. While you can't necessarily control how your body responds to these emotions on a physiological level, you can control how YOU respond to those emotions. So, your homework assignment for this week? Create your list of your top 3 favorite activities that bring you joy. Keep that list in a place where you can access it easily and won't get lost, and put it to practice. You got this!  

I would love to hear from you! Feel free to drop me a line and share your top 3 with me! If you would like to chat about your nutrition and health goals let's schedule a quick chat. I am here to help! Drop me a quick message at Send me an emailor send me a message on Facebook.