Are you battling with emotional eating? Amid a global pandemic and national lockdown the collective sound of opening fridge and pantry doors was heard as many of ate our feelings and our boredom. I’ll be the first to nervously laugh at how quickly I could gobble a whole chocolate bar. Which would happen just about every day – eek! But with the world opening up and the pandemic reaching its second year, it’s time to get back on the health track and beat the habit.
‘Emotional eating has nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with using food to suppress negative feelings of worry, loneliness, boredom and anxiety,’ explains Annie Deadman, W&H’s Health and Fitness Coach. ‘Our go-to stress snacks, usually packed with fat and sugar, override the brain’s natural ‘stop eating signal’ and keep us on that pleasure treadmill.’ Here’s Annie’s top tips to keep emotional eating at bay:
Eat Protein and Fibre
Yes it sounds rather boring, but Annie advises that ‘making adjustments to our day-to-day diet will help reduce sugar cravings and calm our mood.’ Starting the day with a protein-packed meal (with foods like lentils, eggs, oily fish, nuts and yoghurt) is a step in the right direction as it will help prevent you succumbing to an emotional eating binge at the first sign of trouble. Annie explains why:
Dopamine is a type of chemical messenger that affects the reward and pleasure centres in the brain. It plays a role in how we feel, giving us feelings of euphoria and motivation. Foods high in sugar will raise dopamine levels but, hurrah, so will foods high in protein, particularly those with the amino acid tyrosine.
But don’t forget your carbs! Healthy carbs help give you energy and comfort, but most importantly they don’t raise your insulin levels too fast which is what leads to that danger zone of the afternoon slump. Annie recommends sticking to good choices like oats, wholegrain breads and potatoes.
Mindful Eating, Mindful Breathing
Too often we wolf down our meals without really paying any attention. As Annie explains, ‘Many of seem to be focused on something else when we’re eating our meals. Instead, let’s stay in the moment, chewing (15-20 times), breathing deeply, shutting our eyes.’ This will help you slow down, pay attention to your body, and allow for better digestion plus less bloating.
Find Better Distractions
‘Swap cake for endorphins!’ says Annie. Emotional eating is often a way to distract us from our worry, our lonliness or our boredom. So find a better distraction, and one that will work in your favour. Annie suggests,
Walk fast to your favourite music or podcast. Dance around the kitchen, or try cognitive and relaxing challenges like sudoku or jigsaws.
Also, be gentle on yourself and remember that new tactics take time. Emotional eating is a natural habit for emotional beings to pick up, but us women are ‘also strong and determined’ as Annie puts it.
Need some healthy treat ideas? Try these Healthy Girl Chocolate Covered Vanilla Crunch Bars that are packed with protein!