WW blog: Hannah shares her top tips to overcome emotional eating
Hi, I’m Hannah and I’ve been on my journey to better health for the last 3 and a bit years. I have spent most of my adult life on different diets and fads desperately trying to be a weight that I’ve since realised is not achievable.
It all finally clicked into place when I joined WW in 2016. As the plan has gradually moved more towards building a healthy lifestyle and not being solely focused on food, I have finally taken control of an issue that has plagued me since childhood – emotional eating.
I come from a family of foodies!
From a very young age, food has always been a big part of my life. I come from a family that really enjoy their food – not in an unhealthy way but they love trying new foods, eating out, getting everyone together to eat…you name the occasion and it will undoubtably have include food!
From memories of trying new dishes on holidays abroad, to my mum and I treating ourselves to cake and a coffee with all the toppings after weighing in at a WW Workshop, so many things have inadvertently contributed to my problem with emotional eating.
I turn to food to make me feel better
Emotional eating (or comfort eating) is something that I know many suffer from. We find ourselves eating not to fulfil hunger, but to satisfy emotional needs; to make ourselves feel better.
Feeling stressed out at work? Get a takeaway on the way home. Feeling bored? Mindlessly eat sharing bags of sweets or crisps. Feeling sad? Eat anything with chocolate in.
And it doesn’t just apply to the negative emotions – how many of us have celebrated weight loss with a piece of cake, just because we tell ourselves we deserve it?
Occasionally using food in this way is not necessarily a bad thing, but when we find ourselves in a constant cycle of eating to suppress our emotions, then feeling guilty and subsequently eating more because we are feeling down…this is when we need to have a positive plan in place to change.
As I’ve got older, I learned how to have a more positive relationship with food. In fact, I’ve put together an emergency plan for when I’m tempted to surrender to emotional eating.
Angry or annoyed?
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your body, but it’s also amazing for helping to deal with our emotions. I found exercise classes and workouts that were really good for relieving those pent-up feelings of anger, such as boxercise.
If I’ve allowed my feelings to build up to a point where everything is annoying me, I’ll now go to a class and ‘box it out’ instead of mindlessly stuffing my face! And we all know that those endorphins that come from exercise make us super happy!
Instead of keeping it bottled inside and using food in a hopeless attempt to relieve the sadness, I now make an effort to talk about it, either with my boyfriend or one of my close friends and they will inevitably find a way to make me smile.
Even if they can’t solve the issue, they will at least take my mind off it. And if I can’t talk to them then I spend time with my little pet hedgehog, Hettie, because who can be sad around cute animals?!
Playing with your pets is just one of these 9 science-backed ways to be happier!
I’ve found that the best two ways to relieve feelings of stress and tension are either to get on a yoga mat and stretch it out or to relax in a hot bubble bath.
Since I’ve taken up yoga, I’ve used it many times as a way to relieve stress. When you’re focusing on your breathing, other thoughts tend to disappear. When it comes to soaking in the tub, I up the ante with relaxing spa music and a facemask and the stress seems to melt away.
And the thing that both yoga and hot baths have in common? It’s hard to eat while doing either!
Craving comfort food?
Sometimes though, the only thing that’s going to help us control our emotions is actually eating something that’s comforting – and that doesn’t have to be a problem.
When I know that only food is going to make me happy, I try to whip up something that is wholesome and comforting. The WW Comfort cookbook is a perfect place to start. Think pies and casseroles – good, old-fashioned, SmartPoints®-friendly comfort food!
Finally, one of my biggest tips that has helped me control my emotional eating is this…if you find yourself craving something ‘naughty’, take a moment to stop and assess whether having that particular item would actually make you feel better.
Sometimes the answer is yes, and at these times it’s better to actually eat what you’re craving. Otherwise you may find yourself eating your way through the cupboards in a hopeless attempt to stop the cravings – before inevitably finishing by eating the thing you wanted in the first place! I have been in this situation many times, but now I know how to stop it. I’ll have that chocolate bar and I will eat it slowly and savour every mouthful.
Emotional eating is not something that will necessarily disappear for good but knowing how to combat it whenever it appears is the key. And just remember that no-one is perfect. If you do ‘slip up’ and let your emotions get the better of you, IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. Tomorrow is always a new day.