Is the ice cream in the freezer calling your name? Are you about to devour the whole pint driven by your emotions? STOP.
Call your kids over with their young asshole high metabolisms and low cholesterol and hand that pint over to them.
You, meanwhile, are about to learn how to end emotional eating in 5 steps. And if you think overcoming emotional eating is an arduous task, you’re wrong. It revolves around three main issues:
- Eating mindlessly & impulsively without even thinking about it.
- Eating for all the reasons in the damn world except for physiological.
- Having eating beliefs that don’t get you closer to your goals.
The following 5-step A.W.A.R.E formula is focused on bringing awareness of your eating behaviors because you can’t solve a problem if you don’t know you have one. It’ll develop an awareness of your eating patterns, stop negative ones and show how to replace them with better ones.
Sit back, buckle up, enjoy the ride and let’s start with the first step. Dunno, that makes sense, I guess.
Step 1: Become AWARE Of Your Eating Behaviors
About 95% of your behaviors are unconscious. They’re automatic. They’re habits.
The problem is that when your eating becomes automatic and stress hits you, your unconscious mind already knows what to do. You don’t need to do jack shit because your brain knows, “when stressed, we eat the shit out of comfort food.”
These unconscious eating behaviors will run on autopilot until the day you dirt nap unless you replace them with better ones (step 5). But before you can do that, you must know what these habits are.
That’s where awareness comes in. You must become aware of your eating patterns. You need to be aware of two key aspects to eating with awareness:
- Eating exclusively
When you eat, you do nothing but exclusively eat, okay? This means no TV, computer, phone or newspaper while eating. Everything goes down the hatch with no distractions.
You see, watching TV, reading the magazine, surfing the internet, etc. while eating can become linked to eating. Activities can become anchored to eating. It’s known as the “Pavlov’s dog effect1.”
If eating gets linked with, say, lounging on the couch and killing brain cells with TV, it’ll become the trigger of eating every time you watch TV even though you aren’t even hungry.
- Eat slowly and attentively
You see, eating too quickly makes it hard for your brain to receive signals sent by satiety mechanisms. By the time you feel satiated, you’re very likely to have consumed too much.
Like I said in changing food environment article, you want to choose foods that send strong satiety signals to the brain. They should have lower caloric density, higher fiber/protein content, and be water-rich.
Think fruits, veggies, potatoes, dairy, whole grains, lentils, oatmeal, beans, lean meat, etc.
Logging food into an app, food diary or taking photos of what you eat could be other ways to bring awareness to eating behaviors.
Tracking calories leads to a better understanding of food. It gives you experience and awareness so you can eventually stop tracking and eat intuitively. It makes you accountable for what, when, how much, and most importantly why you want to eat.
I’ve written like, gazillion articles about tracking food intake and writing another would send me into a mild stupor so, maybe, read one?
Step 2: WATCH OUT For Emotional Eating Triggers
Emotional eating always has a reason. ALWAYS. Identify your triggers. It could be:
- Smell of food
- Hyper-palatable food at home/work
As you identify emotional eating triggers, search for them in four categories:
Now, some triggers you can control and some can’t. Once you identified triggers, remove ones you can control and prepare in advance for those you can’t control.
Here’s what you can do with ones you have control over:
- Move sodas and hyper-palatable foods to inconvenient, hard-to-get-to locations. Better yet, remove them from your home altogether and save for special occasions.
- Place hyper-palatable foods like cookies high up in the pantry and lower-calorie foods like fruits at eye level.
- Replace the candy/nut jar on your desk with a bowl of fruit or berries.
- Always have ready-to-eat produce like carrot sticks in your fridge.
Doing a clean sweep of home and work is one of the first things you need to do. Like I said to one of my clients, convenience leads to mindless eating. If it’s not there, it’s not going to end up in the face hole, m’kay?
If your triggers are people, places or events, create coping strategies in advance. For example, talk with your friends & family and ask them to support you unconditionally in what you do.
Step 3: ARREST The Negative Patterns Before They Occur
Arresting the negative patterns is only possible once awareness improves. Once you progress from unconscious to a conscious eater you’ll be better equipped to arrest negative eating patterns before they occur.
Awareness provides you with the chance to have a conversation with yourself (in a sane way) when you feel the urge to pry open or climb up to the cookie jar of forbidden goodies to comfort yourself.
It’ll give you the crucial time to ask yourself questions like:
- Why Am I thinking about food? Is this physical or psychological hunger?
- If it’s psychological hunger, what causes it?
- What will be the short-term outcome if I eat this?
- What will be the long-term outcome if I eat this?
- How will I feel if I eat this?
- What will I gain if I choose not to eat this?
- If I eat this, will it get me closer to my goal? Or farther?
- Is eating this more important to me than my long-term goal?
These questions are all about making you stop and think about your long-term goal.
They also make you understand that you’ll feel worse after giving in to emotional eating. Not better. You only feel better after eating for the right reasons. Not after you devour a massive sugar bomb and then feel seven different kinds of shitty.
Step 4: REPLACE The Old Emotional Eating Behavior With A Better One
As I said, there’s always a reason for eating emotionally. If you eat because you’re looking for comfort, happiness or stress relief how about getting these feelings in a different way?
One that doesn’t revolve around eating and plowing through a “bag of Doritos as if the apocalypse is imminent.”
Every single client who overcame emotional eating had two things in common:
a) They realized that giving in to emotional eating would make them feel worse, not better and…
b) they had constructive alternatives to eating emotionally.
That’s exactly what you need to do as well. If you feel stressed how about you relax by meditating, taking a hot shower/bath, listening to relaxing music or going for a walk?
If you have a festering sack of fox feces for a boss at work and you feel angry or frustrated with him go for a run, hit the gym or take a martial arts class.
The whole point of this step is to distract yourself once emotional hunger slaps you in the face. The majority of my clients distract themselves by doing some physical work because emotion follows motion. You change the way you feel after you move your body. Not the other way around.
Step 5: ESTABLISH New Beliefs About Food & Reasons For Eating
Bringing awareness to your eating behaviors is cool and blah barf blah but changing beliefs about food is the core driver of your eating behaviors.
Most people are completely unaware of their beliefs about food and eating. To change eating behaviors, you need to brainstorm a helluva lot of new beliefs about food.
I’ve found that clients who did the best to overcome emotional eating used metaphors for food and reasons for eating it. Take a look at some of the most common ones:
- Food is energy.
- Food is medicine.
- Food is for building muscle.
- Protein is important for building muscle.
- Fruit is the best candy.
- Food is for nourishment.
- Grains are healthy because they’re high-fiber foods.
When you use metaphors to describe food, it’s no longer a problem. It becomes a solution.
I recommend you use metaphors for food you eat too. Write them down so you become more aware of them. When that’s done, look for those that get you closer to your goal. Pick out those that hold you back.
Remember that you have to REPLACE old beliefs with new, empowering ones. Removal never works. This isn’t exactly mind-blowing stuff but keep that in mind.
Once you implement these steps into your life, you’ll increase your awareness and develop empowering beliefs that’ll trigger eating for the right reasons.
This will help you enjoy foods that are outside your normal eating rules. Guilt-free.
If you struggle with your fat loss, it’s not because you had that ice cream on Saturday with your kids. It’s normal. The problem is when you eat like an asshole to use ice cream as a coping mechanism mindlessly and too frequent.
Now, if you want to have an easier and more enjoyable time achieving your health & fitness goals, I dunno, maybe you need to consider hiring me to coach you?