Let It Go!

Sad, happy, stressed—emotions can lead us right to the cookie jar. But there are better ways to satisfy that hunger.
Published April 27, 2016

"Eating doesn’t solve anything except hunger." You’ve probably heard a variation on that truth. Of course, your natural response might be: "Then why do people do it?" Because food, especially food that’s high in fat and/or sugar, can deliver an instant counter-punch to the emotions that have you by the throat. It triggers the reward centres in our brains, flooding it with the feeling of pleasure. 

It’s called hedonic, or external, hunger, and unlike physical, or internal, hunger, it’s not satisfied when we take in a sufficient number of calories or amount of food. So, it's no surprise that emotional eating can wreak havoc on your weight-loss efforts.

(Dis)comfort food
The choices we make when emotions drive us to the fridge or pantry tend to be high in SmartPoints® values and not so hot nutritionally. (Too bad we don’t seem to crave apples or broccoli in those situations!) That just makes things worse, because after the short-lived relief of eating “comfort food,” we feel bad. It becomes a vicious circle. How can you break free and find true comfort without food?

Feel, don’t feed
There are a few strategies to address emotions more productively, so you’re not squashing the feeling only to have it resurface in the urge to eat. One is the “clouds passing” technique, where you acknowledge what you’re feeling, then visualize it passing by. Another tactic is called “reframing,” and it, too, is a way to recognize your emotion instead of trying to ignore it. With reframing, you then address the emotion in a positive, non-food way.

What do you really want?
Reframing helps you figure out just what you’re looking for when food isn’t the answer. Let’s say you find yourself mindlessly munching your way through prime-time television. You had dinner an hour ago, so you’re probably not hungry. Maybe what you're really feeling is loneliness. What can you do to address those feelings without food? You could call a friend or relative, invite your neighbour over for tea, or hop onto Connect on the mobile app and get encouragement and solutions from other members.

Try a non-food fix
For starters, identify just what kind of hunger you’re feeling—internal or external. Then, choose a healthy way to redirect the urge to eat when you’re not hungry.