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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Eating Your Feelings

If you ask me, emotional eating is practically learned at birth. Human beings bond over food, show love and concern by feeding each other, and food is part of nearly every celebration and holiday tradition.

And let’s face it, eating feels good and can be one of the easiest ways to deal with our feelings. In fact, the food/feelings connection can be so strong that in the heat of the moment, emotional needs easily overpower intellectual thoughts about calories, fat, sugar, and the like. But if you’re an emotional eater, you aren’t doomed.

The key to breaking the cycle is to keep your focus on the feelings, not the food. Instead of blaming chocolate as an evil temptress, first understand why you need the chocolate. You may not have the power to change what triggered you (stress at work, a family illness, etc.), but once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, you can experiment with alternative (i.e. non food) ways of coping with it.

I’ve tried out lots of things over the years and have found a few that really work for me: when I’m sad, cuddling with my pets truly comforts me; if I’m angry or anxious, cleaning helps me release tension; and if I’m bored, starting a new project will keep my mind (and hands) occupied (my favorite is researching travel destinations). Believe me, I know it’s not easy to break the cycle of reaching for food (I’ll be the first to admit that diving head first into a plate of brownies feels great in the moment). But of course, the gratification is fleeting, and turning to food instead of dealing with your feelings causes all sorts of other problems (weight gain, and even more emotions…).

No doubt, emotional eating is a challenging pattern to overcome, but I have seen many clients do it, and keeping a food/mood journal can really help (writing down not just what you ate but how you were feeling before, during, and after). Becoming aware of your patterns (i.e. maybe you crave crunchy foods when you’re frustrated), being patient with yourself, and experimenting with alternative coping methods (through trial and error) are three important keys to changing this pattern. Hang in there - you can do this!

For more info, check out this link.
http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/41.cfm

P.S. If you experience most of your stress between 9 and 5 (or whatever your work hours are), try carving out just 5 or 10 minutes from your lunch break every day for “you time.” Walk, stretch, vent, write, breathe deeply, listen to music, read 10 pages of a juicy novel, or sit in the shade. Taking a scheduled mini mental vacation each day could defuse your stress just enough to negate the need to nosh.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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