Do you find yourself opening the kitchen cupboards and fridge several times a day? Do you end up eating the whole tub of Ben & Jerrys ice cream? Can’t stop eating crisps and biscuits? If so, you are emotional eating.
Emotional or comfort eating is a way to supress or soothe negative emotions such as stress, boredom, fear, loneliness, sadness and anger. Your subconscious mind is looking to reduce stress and find comfort by craving those foods that can give you a spike of dopamine -the feel-good neurotransmitter. When stressed or anxious, our bodies are flooded with the hormone cortisol making us crave sugary, salty, fatty foods.
During this period of change and uncertainty, we strive for control and security and literally EAT away our fearful thoughts. Our eating habits can wreak havoc with our health not to mention our waistlines if not kept in check.
Poor nutrition is, in itself a source of stress to the body. The food that we eat, our gut microbiome (a collection of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that live in our gut), and our immune system are intimately linked. There is a direct line of communication between the digestive system and our brain.
The types of food you put into your body, how much and how often, will determine how the body responds.
A healthy diet can help reduce the impact of stress by supporting the immune system.
Avoid processed foods
Eat a diet rich in fiber
Stick with whole foods
Eat colourful fruit and vegetables
Add oily fish and probiotics
It is time to stop eating your feelings! But please, give yourself a little compassion. These are difficult times we are facing and we are undergoing huge changes. Try these methods instead:
- Recognise your stressors and take steps to limit them. If you feel bombarded with COVID-19 news, then limit your news feed. Don’t watch the news an hour before bed. This is your wind down time. If you have children at home driving you crazy, find and encourage activities that will stimulate and keep them engaged. Make a timetable. Get them involved in cleaning and cooking if they are old enough.
- Try some home workouts. There are several free options on line. Gardening, yoga, stretching or tai chi are also beneficial.
- Phone a friend of loved one for support.
- Tune into your body’s needs. Are you really hungry? Perhaps you are thirsty instead? When was the last time you ate? Slow down and pay attention. Keep a food diary.
- Substitute unhealthy snacks with healthier ones.
Ice cream – yogurt with berries or frozen grapes
Biscuits – wholegrain crackers or oat cakes with cheese
Crisps – popcorn or nuts and seeds
Sweets – fresh fruit and berries
Chips – Roasted sweet potato chips
Fizzy drinks – soda water with fresh lime or water with fruit pieces
Milk chocolate – dark chocolate
Sugary tea – herbal teas
Jam or chocolate spread – low sugar peanut butter
Cakes & puddings – fruit salad with natural yogurt
I like to snack on vegetable sticks of carrot and celery with homous dip or smashed avocado or a small plate of cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks.
Place the healthier snacks up front and centre of the fridge or cupboard.
- Numerous studies have shown that meditation reduces stress. Try the apps Headspace or Calm for guided meditations, soothing music and even bedtime stories.
- Distract yourself with a healthier behaviour. For example, a cup of green tea and a book. A soak in the bath. Listening to music or have a dance around the room. Watch a movie.
Practice the 3-2-1 method
3 hours before bed, no FOOD
2 hours before bed, no WORK
1 hour before bed, no SCREENS
Remember that it is ok to have the things you enjoy in moderation. Just make sure that the majority of your diet is coming from real, whole foods. It is all about balance.
Your health is your wealth and you are your most important asset