The huge difference between true psychical hunger and emotional hunger is not only what the craving is, but how it's eaten. When one is truly hungry the stomach normally growls, we make more wholesome choices that will nurture the body, and are more mindful about the experience. It's easier to recognize when we are full and stop eating. On the flip side, emotional eating is pure craving. Some scientists believe that emotional eating starts from a very young age. When Mother lovingly cradled us in her arms to be feed. Therefore we are nostalgic about food and crave it when we are feeling emotional.
Remember back to all of those amazing family get-togethers or holiday events. Food is very meaningful and comforting. One can be transported back to that wonderful time just with a bite of holiday honey-glazed ham or delicious chocolate birthday cake. Of course everything in life is fine in moderation, but what happens when daily habits take a turn for the worse? Well, we have to learn how to recognize emotional eating, and kick the habit before it becomes a problem.
Here are some simple steps to avoid it:
- Out of sight, out of mind. It can be as simple as not buying bad food and bringing it into the home. This is what I do, because I figure it's best to go cold turkey. Food addition is serious business, and it's hard to kick the habit. So keeping the refrigerator stocked with fresh healthy options will help encourage better choices.
- Break one habit at a time. If the cold-turkey approach is not an option, that's fine too. Focus on one thing at a time. Perhaps soda is a current issue, just try replacing a few during the day. If it's the caffeine that you love, try switching over to a nice green or white tea for a more natural dose of caffeine. Or if it's the sugar that you like, possibly try to make fresh organic homemade fruit juice with a little cucumber or celery.
- Don't go shopping on an empty stomach. When we are hungry we want to eat and we want it now. So we are more likely to choose the quick easy meals that will supply us with the most fat and calories quickly. Don't give in! Go shopping after a wholesome meal, so that the brain doesn't crave the fat, sugar, and salt when you go to grocery store.
- Shop at the local farmer's market. You can't go wrong with fresh local produce. Just stay away from the bread, cheese, and meat that some venders sell. Stick with leafy greens, herbs, veggies, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, and raw local honeys.
- Fight boredom. We love eating because we are bored. Get up and partake in a favorite activity. Typically it only takes 30 minutes for a bad food craving to subside.
- Exercise and keep active. When we exercise we loose our emotional cravings for food. Not only does the physical activity keep our minds off of cheeseburgers and pie, but it also keeps true hunger at bay. Inactive individuals are hungry more often than their physically-fit counterparts.
- Be mindful about eating every time. It's so important to sit down and properly eat every time. Even if it's just a snack. Turn of the TV, cellphone, or computer and take the food over to a table. Partake and be grateful for it. Really taste it and chew it completely. Our stomach has no teeth, as the old Indian proverb goes, so we have to chew everything thoroughly. Chewing helps the body digest food correctly. This is why blended smoothies are so great, because then the body can take a well deserved rest from digestion when all of the food is already broken down.
- Get support. Surround yourself with people that value health and will not tempt you to make poor choices when you're feeling emotional. Yes, one cookie can put you back on the unhealthy track if it becomes two and then three, and so forth. Food additions are go joke, and it's one of the hardest habits to break. Good friends will respect that and help you.
- Eat only until full. It's so hard not to finish everything on our plates, I know. It's part of our programing, to survive. We eat because our brains tell us that it's the last food that we will ever get! For most people that live in modern first-world countries, this is not the case, and excess is more problematic then deficiency. Start with small portions, and go for more if necessary. Also, try using smaller dishes to trick the brain into thinking you have more food on the plate.
- Be patient. It takes a long time for the body to get rid of a food addition. Neurologically it takes two weeks for the brain to stop craving sugar, three weeks for salt, and a whopping three months for fat. If you want to deal with this quickly, considering doing a water fast. The body can do this naturally within a 5-7 day fast.
Overcoming emotional eating can be tough, so just take it slowly and do your best. If you ever veer off course, no worries, just look towards the future and make better choices next time. It's worth the effort, and I wish you all the success in the world.