Are you really hungry or just stressed? Four ways to control emotional eating

Some people eat less when battling strong emotions while others turn to binge-eating.

If you’ve paid close attention to your eating pattern, you may realize that your cravings hit hardest when you’re experiencing strong emotions. The opposite is true for some people who might eat less when stressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Mayo Clinic defines emotional eating as

eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness.

Here are four ways to stop yourself reaching for that bag of chips or heading to the refrigerator when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

Understand your relationship with food

Pay attention to the things that trigger emotional eating. According to Women’s Health, being in the moment and keeping track of the emotions you are feeling when the cravings hit, is the first step to managing those triggers. Maybe you feel the urge to snack more ahead of seeing a family member, an old friend or colleague.

Getty/ Mayur Kakade

Keep a food diary

You might also want to keep a record of the times of day or prevailing situations when the cravings strike, and you may be feeling in that moment. Being aware of the pattern would let you know if you are really hungry or just fishing for something to eat as a very short term relief from how you are feeling. Give the craving time to pass.

Deal with the boredom

One of the triggers for mindless eating is boredom. When you find yourself idling, the temptation to grab something to eat even if you are not hungry is high. When the cravings kick in, experts advise you engage in some activity to keep your mind engaged. You could go for walk, play with your pet or call a friend.

Yield not to temptation

Out of sight, out of mind! This might be an effective tool to control emotional eating in the medium term. However, anyone who indulges in binge-eating knows it’s not a sure-proof method. That’s why you’re advised to not deprive yourself when after waiting for 15 mins and the craving’s still strong. According to Mayo Clinic:

Eat satisfying amounts of healthier foods, enjoy an occasional treat and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.

Read more:

Decision fatigue: This is why making decisions causes you stress and anxiety

Four physical effects of stress on the body

Binge eating: Here are the signs to watch out for

Emotional hunger: What is it and how to control it? Emotional hunger: What is it and how to control it?