If you think you may be emotional eating, try out the tips outlined below to help you decide whether or not to respond to your body’s cravings:
Take A Time-Out
If you find yourself in the kitchen opening and closing cabinets or in the refrigerator frantically looking for food, tell yourself to stop. Take a few minutes before grabbing food and ask yourself, "Why am I in here?" "When was the last time I ate?" and “What is going on?” Perhaps you are bored, stressed, or experiencing premenstrual cravings. If you are able to identify an emotion as the culprit, then you can ask yourself if eating is really going to solve the problem.
Think About A Distraction and Substitute A Healthier Behavior
You can find other ways to make yourself feel better in the moment (if you are not physiologically hungry). Identify a few healthier behaviors ahead of time that you can participate in as coping mechanisms.
Common Coping Behaviors:
- Taking a walk.
- Making a phone call.
- Reading a book.
It usually takes about ten minutes of beginning a substitute behavior until you are no longer thinking about the food, which would be further evidence that you were not physiologically hungry.
On the other hand, if you are still thinking about that craving, then you are either truly hungry or you really want it. Regardless, that time in between allowed you to make a healthy choice, impulses aside, thereby ebbing any feelings of guilt.
Ask Yourself: Do I Need It or Do I Want It?
If you are able to identify that you don’t need the food, but you really just want it, you have thought it through. Accept your craving for what it is, and go for it. If you can be okay with what you ate and not wait until the next day or next week to get back on track, then you are doing great.
Remember that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are linked, so if you make the conscious decision to eat a scoop of ice cream (and it was not an impulsive act of emotion), then you need to accept it and move on. The thought that follows the behavior is actually more important when it comes to long-term success than the behavior itself in these situations.