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Healthy Weight Loss Part 3 - Emotional Eating

Ever drown your sorrows in nice big bowl of ice cream, or over a plate of chocolaty brownies? I have. I think a lot of us have. There’s nothing wrong with turning to a comforting indulgence every once in a while to cope with a bad day. And there’s a biological explanation for why it really does help us feel better. Sugary foods like chocolate stimulate the release of endorphins.

These are hormones that have a lot of effects in the body. One of them is to exert a pain-killing and relaxing effect on the body. Eating these foods also creates an excess amount of serotonin in the brain. This all leads us to feeling good, relaxed and maybe a little sleepy. Not a bad thing on occasion. Problems arise when the occasional turns into the habitual and we begin to use food as a coping mechanism for the bad times and a reward for every good achievement; when we eat for reasons other than hunger. There are absolutely physical components that are involved in food cravings – particularly cravings for sugar and carbohydrate-laden foods. I covered this issue specifically in a previous blog, “Fight Your Sugar Cravings”.

Part 3 of our weight loss feature is going to focus on the emotional and mental component of eating. We eat for so many different reasons and not all of them are related to actually being hungry or needing to give our bodies some nutrition. Sometimes we eat when we are bored; sometimes we eat as a distraction; we eat when we are nervous, stressed, sad, happy…the list goes on and on. Eating for emotional reasons will sabotage weight loss efforts and can lead to an unwelcomed cycle.

The act of eating is just a quick fix. Regardless of the emotion that is driving the urge to eat, it will return and in addition to that emotion could be feelings of guilt about the setback – and the cycle begins. Your emotions drive you to eat; you beat yourself up because of getting off track; you feel terrible about your choices; you overeat again. There are things you can do to put a stop to this cycle. If you’ve been following our blog, you might start to see some recurring themes…

  1. Get stress under control. In our previous blog, I talked about the reasons why stress has a negative impact on healthy weight management and the power of adaptogen herbs. There are adaptogens – such as Schisandra and Holy Basil that have an emotional component to them. These adaptogens can elevate your spirit and increase your resistance to emotional stress and give you a platform for building emotional strength.
  2. Stop and check your hunger. Are you really hungry? If you just ate an hour ago and your stomach isn’t growling, then your craving probably isn’t based on a need for nutrition. Take a deep breath and give it a little time to pass.
  3. Write it down. Keep a food journal and over time, you might see some patterns emerge that can help you recognize what you eat, when you eat and why.
  4. Keep yourself busy. Many of us eat when we are bored. It’s just something to do to pass the time. Get up. Take your dog for a walk. Clean your house. Do whatever you need to do to get moving.
  5. Eat regular, well-balanced meals with variety. Eat – do not starve yourself. Limiting your calories too much will just increase your cravings – especially your emotionally charged cravings. Don’t eat the same things every day. Mix it up and keep it fresh.
  6. Don’t keep a secret stash. C’mon…admit it. You have one. It’s garbage. Put it where it belongs and throw it away! Clean out your pantry! Why tempt yourself with the foods you are trying to avoid? Replace it with fresh fruits, raw nuts and seeds. It seems so easy as I type it (and probably as you read it).

I said before that there is a biological reason why eating food helps us feel better. The more we cycle through the patterns for emotional eating, the stronger those urges become. Consider using a mood support formula to give you nutrients for healthy brain function and healthy neurotransmitter levels. A blend of B vitamins, amino acids and adaptogens can go a long way to help you gain control again.

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