Mindful Eating: Strategies for Overcoming Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is using food to cope with negative emotions or stress rather than physical hunger. It’s a common issue that can sabotage weight loss efforts and lead to feelings of guilt or shame. Practicing mindful eating techniques can help override the impulse to reach for food when upset. Here are some effective strategies to help stop reacting to emotions with food.

Tune into Your Body’s Cues

A key principle of mindful eating is learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. Physical hunger builds gradually and waiting to eat won’t cause distress. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with whatever food is most tempting. Start paying closer attention to your body’s signals. Rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10. If it’s under a 4, the desire to snack likely comes from emotions, not a biological food need.

Practice Urge Surfing

Cravings and impulses to eat are like ocean waves – they crest and then subside. Urge surfing means noticing an urge to emotionally eat without judging it and without acting on it. Pay close attention as the physical and emotional intensity of the craving peaks and inevitably starts decreasing within a few minutes. Visualize yourself surfing the urge wave as it goes up and down until the intensity diminishes. This shows that you don’t have to respond to every impulse and craving, and that your urges are temporary storms that will soon blow over.

Sit with Your Feelings

Emotional eating often happens automatically without conscious thought because eating offers a fast distraction from difficult emotions. Practicing urge surfing exercises helps highlight that eating won’t truly relieve your emotional turmoil or make problems disappear. Allow yourself to sit with and process your feelings, even if they are uncomfortable in the moment.

Identify the emotions behind your urge to eat – are you stressed? Sad? Angry? Let the emotions run their course naturally without trying to suppress or avoid them. This builds coping skills and resilience.

Practice Mindful Eating

When you do eat, make your meals as mindful an experience as possible without distractions. Sit down at a table without screens or devices and truly focus on the colors, textures, flavors, and aromas of each bite. Eat slowly, paying close attention and appreciating the sensory pleasure of nourishing yourself. This focused presence curbs mindless overeating and emotional eating by creating awareness of how food physically affects your hunger and fullness. If you eat while upset, check in periodically with your emotions – has anything shifted or changed?

Keep a Food & Feelings Journal

Chronicling what triggers emotional eating in a food journal provides valuable insights. Note the time, location, foods eaten, portion sizes, and any emotions or stresses you felt before turning to food. Look for patterns revealing your most common emotional eating triggers – work stress? Loneliness? Boredom? Anxiety? Identifying these cues is key in learning to anticipate and manage urges to eat reactively.

Practice Self-Care Basics

Ongoing lack of sleep, exercise, relaxation, and alone time can significantly deplete mental reserves making coping with stress much harder. This increases emotional reactivity and the likelihood of food as a coping mechanism. Building regular self-care into your routine better equips you to handle challenges that arise without crumbling from overwhelm or exhaustion. Prioritize proper sleep, daily movement you enjoy, social connection, and alone time to regularly recharge.

Get Support

Making major changes in eating patterns can be very difficult without outside support.

  • Enlist friends, family members, or co-workers to bolster your efforts. Let them know your goals so they understand if you make different food choices.
  • Consider joining online or in-person support groups to share advice and encouragement with others working on mindful eating.
  • Talk to a counselor if emotional issues underlie disordered eating patterns. Be compassionate with yourself throughout the process – change takes time and you deserve help.
  • Consider taking advantage of supplements available on Amazon if you are struggling to lose the weight you piled on because of emotional eating.

Implementing mindful eating strategies takes practice, but offers long-term rewards like balanced eating, body positivity, self-confidence, and better health. Start tuning into physical vs. emotional hunger cues today. Pay attention as you eat to re-train your brain and overcome ingrained impulses to overeat.

You have the power to take control of reactive eating by learning how to surf those temporary urge waves.

This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.

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