At times people take foods as a way to deal with feelings rather than satisfying their hunger. Emotional eating is then considered as overeating in order to mitigate those negative emotions. So, emotional eating affects fitness, weight, structure, health, and overall well-being. That’s why, a fitness lover should avoid emotional eating.
To a broad extent, while we may be prone to overeating in stressful situations, it also holds true for the other end of the spectrum. A merry muncher typically finds themselves eating whilst happy or excited, rather than when down in the dumps. Does this sound familiar? Read on for some common merry munching situations and how you can avoid packing on the pounds amid all the positive stimuli.
You Get Absent-Minded When You Get Excited:
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve just had an amazingly awesome day, you get home to fix a snack, and suddenly find yourself munching while relaying the details of your amazing day to your friends/ roommates/ partners/ family members?
This happens to me more often than I can count! When I’m excited about something and there’s food around, I tend to forget to munch mindfully. I get really caught up in the excitement of whatever’s happening or whatever I’m discussing, and before I know it, I’ve eaten a whole lot more than I’ve intended. I might not be eating to get over a breakup or a bad day at work, but it can be just as deadly for the waistline.
Excitement is great, but don’t forget to slow down and enjoy your food, too! Be smart about your eating. Fix yourself a meal, but try to avoid snacking throughout the food preparation stage. See if you can concentrate on doing one thing at a time, prepping your meal before diving into the excitement of your emotions. This way, you can ensure that you’re still eating strategically and being mindful of your portions while indulging in the excitement.
If You’re a Fast Chatter:
Similarly, the excitement of an engaging conversation can cause you to match each juicy tidbit with a bite of this or a sip of that. Generally, if you’re the excitable type, you might find that you tend to synch the pace of your snacking to the rhythm of your conversation.
If you happen to be an excited, fast chatter, then this definitely spells trouble. Generally, if you’re the one doing the talking, it should follow that your plate is lot more full than the other non-talking participant in the conversation.
However, if you’re an excitable chatter who eats in these situations, it doesn’t really matter that there’s food in your mouth; those words just keep on coming. You might be dishing out words at a mile a minute while taking in calories at the same rate.
To fix it, just remember the following two words: Drink water. Despite the fact that you may be able to talk with your mouth full (as gross as that sounds), it’s virtually impossible to chat when you’re chugging a cold one. See if you can pace both the conversation and your food intake with a few sips of water between words.
If You Use Food as a Prop In Social Situations:
In social situations, food is usually used to propel or stage conversation. We can’t just chat; we need to do it over martinis, nachos, pizza or other tasty appetizers. When this happens in a non-socially awkward situation (read: you’re out with your best girls and not at a party with random people you barely know), we’re usually inclined to consume more, mainly because we’re at ease with our surroundings and are looking to spread around the cheer in food and beverage form.
In this type of merry social situations, you may offer to top off your friends more often than you do yourself. If this is the case, then it’s likely they’re doing the same for you, and as such, you might find yourself downing a few too many over the course of your catch up-over-cocktails.
Keep a lid on things without stifling the conversation by going one-for-one with water and wine. Alternating between drinks helps you keep pace, and also ensures that you don’t get too drunk, too fast. You also opt to open the conversation over crudités or a shrimp ring split among your guests. As you get going, you’ll be noshing on healthier items instead of potentially downing hundreds of calories over a basket of fried calamari as you catch up on who’s got a hot new boyfriend.
To make you more expert in avoiding emotional eating, I can not but telling you that last week I discussed how to manage working out and eating properly despite the challenges offered by different lifestyles, be it the student routine or the regular weekday structure. What I didn’t talk about is how to handle the potential stress that comes with each of these lifestyles, and how you can best deal with the temptations that accompany a hard day at the office or the panic of studying for exams.
You know, emotional eating is often a result of this stress. The temptation to eat when you’re bored or upset stems from the pleasure you can get from tasting these good comfort foods. As you know, eating can be a very pleasurable experience; food tastes good! Rather than eating because you’re actually hungry, you eat to feel pleasure, and this pleasure in turn provides stimulation to help ward off boredom or dull stress.
I can tell you that during the heavy thesis period, chips, my mortal enemy, became an easy fall-back when I was hitting a slump with the writing. Unsure of what more to do or what direction to take my research, I found myself rummaging through my kitchen in search of some alternative stimulation.
Eating chips was an easy release for me, so I indulged and had a bowl to help getting rid of some of the dismay I felt over being “unproductive.” Somehow however, everytime I ended up feeling worse than ever, which can lead you right back to the bag. Emotional eating often takes you in circles like this; you eat to feel better, then you feel guilty and horrible following this slip up, and just return to the eating again.
What Should You Do:
Remember your fitness goal and so to avoid emotional or stress-related eating, the trick is to find healthy alternatives that capture that same high that eating does, but in a more positive way. Eating, as I mentioned, is gratifying and pleasant. Look to swap in other feel good activities in place of eating when you’re upset; if eating has been your constant fall-back, try weaning yourself onto other things.
For example, incorporate having a healthier treat, a popsicle as opposed to a bucket of ice cream with a more positive activity, like going for a walk. Both things can help you to distress, but the latter option is obviously more helpful for you to meet your weight management goals. Keep coupling the “comfort” of eating with other more beneficial activities, and eventually your mind will start associating that comfort with the more positive alternative alone, which is the goal.
The Benefits of Physical Release:
The most obvious way of exploring healthy alternatives to comfort food is working out during times of stress. Long periods of sitting and writing were certainly not conducive to keeping off the pounds; however it was necessary in order to get the work done. While eating to ward off stress was an easy way of unwinding, I learned to rely on the opposite to plough through periods of unrest and academic panic.
Physical activity became my go-to during periods of stress. This sounds pretty obvious, but here’s the science of the situation. Working out triggers the same feel good sensation as does eating, but with less of the guilt; exercise releases endorphins, which leaves you with that glowing “runner’s high” when you leave the gym or track.
Additionally, working out when stressed is also a way of positively expressing your frustration or pent-up feelings. Hammering out a run or hitting the punching bag can be cathartic after a hard day in the office. If you’re angry over some upsetting calls with clients, take the rage out on track rather than on your body. If I’m in a hard spot emotionally, I go for a long run.
It gives me the illusion of escaping the difficult reality of whatever’s causing the unpleasant emotions, as well as a way of “doing something” when in circumstances over which we feel we have no control. If you have a fight with your best friend, go for a jog instead of moping around at home and snacking. It can be tempting to be self-destructive when you’re upset, but getting physical in a more positive way can help you feel productive about the situation.
Jogging or rope skipping can also be a period of mental release if you feel overwhelmed. Drowning in paperwork? Take a moment to put your body in the driver’s seat and put your mind in neutral. Jogging, doing aerobics, playing sports, going out for backpacking or other physical activity allows you to focus on what your body’s doing as opposed to whatever thoughts are flying through your mind.
When you’re at work, you’re sitting static, mind locked on nailing that contract or handling client calls. It’s easy to want to eat your stress away, but pause before you do that and try simply switching gears instead. When I play sports, my mind is on the game, not on work, so I can distress in a positive way by hitting the turf instead of the fridge.
Discover Safety in Numbers:
Okay, for some people, stress triggers a downward cycle rather than an adrenaline rush. Rather than feeling angry and frustrated after work, you could wind up feeling sad and unmotivated as well. These emotions can make it difficult to muster up the will to get to the gym in the first place, so you might not be able to channel the benefits of a good run when you’re down.
If hammering out your stress physically isn’t the best option, another healthy alternative to eating away your stress is to get in contact with a friend. Rather than releasing your frustration physically, you can also vent your feelings verbally with someone you love and trust. This seems pretty obvious as well, but here’s the thing.
Getting together with a friend over a tea or even over the phone will allow you to sort through what you’re experiencing feel better about your situation by talking instead of eating. It’s that same idea of seeking gratification as before, but being in the comfort of someone’s company and support is obviously a better choice than that slice of cake.
If you can afford it, shopping with your friend, even to just try on pretty clothes, can be a good alternative as well. Just being socially active will build and strengthen relationships as well as strengthen your sense of self as well. Emotional eating is perceived by many as a weakness, so by channeling your frustration into more positive outlets, you’ll gain a sense of control over your life and these challenges and eventually learn to avoid the kitchen unless you’re hungry.
Essentially, to avoid emotional eating when you’re stressed, you should be looking to seek other forms of positive stimulation. Anything reasonable you can think of that gives you a rush or a pleasant sensation can substitute your kitchen. Food is often the first fallback because it’s really just about consumption without any obstacles, whereas some of the alternatives I’ve referenced actually involve some kind of “work,” notwithstanding productive work.
If you’re headed for the kitchen despite weighing the benefits of doing something else instead, take a moment to drink a tall glass of water first. At least you can fill up on something healthy before going all-out on that bag of cookies. Similarly, bite into an apple or some fruit before reaching for the cheesecake. If you do end up indulging, at least it won’t be as much as you would have if your stomach didn’t have those carrot sticks and water in there first.
Hopefully this short article has been helpful, and as always, I invite you to share your thoughts on the subject of frustration and emotional eating. Stress comes with any lifestyle, and it’s key that we swap tips on how best to manage these situations. Let us know what you think. Our comment box is waiting for you.