Most diets or weight loss programs are effective but fail at a practical level. Rationally we know that if we want to lose weight we have to eliminate sweets, reduce portions, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and limit alcohol, junk food and carbohydrates, exercise daily and be persistent.
Facts are different. Diets do not calculate our emotional needs, periods of stress, tragedies, heartbreaks, boredom, and basically any irrational explanation to open the fridge and eat chocolate.
One of the most funny phrases on Facebook is “Chocolate doesn’t ask silly questions. Chocolate understands.” Sometimes we eat out of boredom, to reward ourselves, to fill a void (which is usually replaced by a sense of guilt for having eaten too much), or because we’re stressed.
When we’re feeling down, we usually eat carbohydrates and sweets. And you know, those are the ones that make us gain weight. One thing is eating a slice of cake once a week, another is eating an entire cake because we feel sad.
Even if you do not arrive at these extremes, if your goal is to lose weight, you need to go a bit deeper and understand why the diets you’ve done, have failed. Very often there’s an emotional reason behind that. Do I need psychology to lose weight? If you feel the need to eat often in large quantities out of emotional reasons, this behavior actually hides something else. So we must stop and ask ourselves: why am I doing this?
Learning to recognize the triggers of emotional eating is the first step to stop food cravings and compulsive eating , and change the habits that have sabotaged your diet in the past.
If your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you are angry, sad, stressed, exhausted , or bored, you get stuck in a cycle of unhealthy behavior and the real problem is never addressed.
To overcome this, you need to understand what emotions have triggered this process and learn more productive ways to deal with emotions, such as starting to understand and manage them. If there are any problems, the best way to deal with them is to find a solution. And a whole box of snacks for sure will not bring it.
First of all, you need to learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.
Emotional hunger craves comfort foods, such as junk food, snacks, chocolate, carbohydrates and sugars. A very simple example is the hunger that comes during the PMS..
This kind of hunger often leads to eat in an exaggerated way and the desire starts from the mind, not from the stomach, and often brings with it a sense of guilt. You can finish a whole pie or a whole box of chocolates.
A normal hunger instead accepts any type of food, such as vegetables and is also more conscious and controlled.
The first step to stop emotional eating is to identify its triggers, so it is usually best to keep a diary of what you eat and write down why you eat it.
For example, if you’ve finished a whole box of chocolates (and I often did that when I was depressed some years ago), write down what you ate, what event or emotion has brought you to eat them (sadness , anger, despair , or a fight with your boyfriend etc. .. ) and how you felt afterwards.
Over time, you will see a pattern emerge. After identifying emotional triggers, the next step is to identify the simple and useful ways to deal with these situations.
Common causes are stress, eating because of “bad” emotions, boredom, emotional void, childhood habits and social influences.
If you are highly stressed, cortisol levels increase and this triggers the desire for junk food, that gives us a lot of energy and immediate gratification. If you eat to avoid emotions, recognize that sooner or later you’ll have to look within and deal with them, so it’s better if we face the problem immediately.
The same thing applies to boredom and emotional void: if you are unhappy , find something that gives you satisfaction and that fills your life! Childhood habits, such as receiving a pizza for being a “good girl” , may have linked your sense of satisfaction and reward with food: no problem with that, until you don’t exceed.
For what concerns social influences, I’m Italian and usually during important lunches and dinners , it’s easy to keep eating if everyone else is doing it. So following the group could be the problem : for example, if everyone eats junk food at lunch, you could do the seem to not feel “different.”
It s’ important to know how to manage emotions in a way that does not involve food : you have to find other alternative ways to satisfy yourself emotionally.
For example, if you are anxious, start to dance, exercise, take a walk; if you’re sad, call a friend, get out and have fun, go to the movies; if you’re bored watch a comedy , read a book or enjoy your hobbies; if you are tired, indulge in a hot bath, take a nap or relax . Find alternatives that do not involve food. And if you really need to have something, chew a gum. Distract your mind and think of something else.
The truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.
Stop and think before you start eating without control and let yourself decide differently. Instead of eating, put on your favorite song and start dancing. Use various techniques to improve your mood, and you’ll sooner stop the craving.
Talk to yourself. What am I feeling? What’s going on emotionally? How can I deal with it in the best way? What’s best for me?
Learn to accept your feelings, even the bad ones. Understand, analyze and solve them .
Emotional eating actually comes from feeling powerless over your emotions . Be proficient in control and manage them.
Even the most painful and difficult feelings stop relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention , if addressed and resolved. To do this you need to become aware of them and learn how to stay connected to your emotional experience from moment to moment .
Our feelings are a window into our inner world. They help us understand and discover our deepest desires and fears, our frustrations today , and the things that make us happy.
Healthy lifestyle habits
When you’re physically strong, relaxed and well rested, you are more able to handle the tough times . But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, every little difficulty has the potential to send us straight to the fridge.
Exercise, get enough sleep and a healthy lifestyle will help you to overcome difficult moments. The best way to have a certain basic emotional balance is to be your own best friend: sleep at least 8 hours a night, exercise daily ( it incredibly improves our mood and eliminates stress) , and devote time to relax and social life. Spending your time with positive people who enhance your life will help you protect against the negative effects of stress.
Remember that everything has a reason, sometimes logical, sometimes emotional. But there’s a solution for both. 🙂