Make friends with food
First up, let’s first acknowledge that food and feelings go together for most people to some degree. From birth, we’re programmed to link food with enjoyment, affection and nurturing. Food often accompanies emotion-filled events, both happy and unhappy. Eating for comfort is a common behaviour that comes from this connection between the experience of eating and the sensation of comfort.
For those people who are more susceptible to emotional eating, the impact on weight can be significant. In a study on emotional eating that included both overweight and underweight subjects, it was found that those who weighed more were more likely to eat in response to negative moods and situations.
But emotional eating isn’t limited to the ‘bad times’. Good moods and happy events can also lead to overeating for a lot of people. In a study that evaluated overeating in a group of obese women, it was found that larger meals were eaten in response to both good and bad moods when compared to those mealtimes when the women’s mood was neutral.
Simply acknowledging and becoming aware of the impact emotional eating may play in a weight-loss attempt is the first step, but these strategies can help if you do identify any emotional-eating patterns.
One of the best ways of reshaping any eating behaviour that has the potential to have a negative impact on your weight-loss goals, is to take a good, hard look at your patterns over time. Tracking allows you to become aware of the moods, common events and environments that lead to eating extra food.
Develop coping skills
Studies show that unsuccessful weight-loss efforts often follow a pattern of experiencing stress, eating in response, and then gaining (or regaining) weight. The development of strong coping skills is a predictor of lasting weight loss. So pat yourself on the back for being a WW member and make sure you’re surrounding yourself with all the support and tools on offer.
Are you in tune with your body’s signals? Do you eat as a reflex habit or only when you’re truly hungry? Learn to recognise the difference between emotional or desire-based hunger and real, physiological hunger. Real hunger feels like an empty gnawing feeling in your stomach, and it is sometimes accompanied by stomach rumbles.
Boost your mood
Sometimes it might seem like if we eat a chocolate bar, it will improve our low mood and we’ll feel better. This can be true, but at times the feel-good factor rebounds and you’re just left with intense feelings of guilt and remorse. Look to other healthy mood boosters instead. Exercising at a high intensity produces feel-good endorphins, and there’s nothing like adequate sleep to help keep a positive mindset.
We all have genuine rough patches in life that we need to ride through, hopefully with support from family and friends. But if stress at work or home is creeping into your daily life, the key is to get help early. Start by being open with your friends and family members. Simple steps like a relaxation tape on the drive home, a lunchtime yoga or meditation class, a regular catch up with a friend or mentor, or simply scheduling some all-important ‘me time’, can really help.