One day I looked in the mirror and I just did not see all the changes I had been working so hard to achieve. I was faithfully strength training four times a week. I wasn’t skipping cardio to the point that my hair was constantly sweating out (another article), and I thought I was eating the right amount of food at all the right times.
I wasn’t. What I failed to realize was that I was an emotional eater, and that although my eating patterns had improved, I was still preventing myself from achieving goals. I’ve discussed this topic often with others, and I’ve come to realize that many of us struggle with it; so in this article we’re going to discuss what emotional eating is, the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and how to effectively deal with emotional eating.
Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. Instead of physical symptoms of hunger initiating the eating, an emotion triggers the eating (Jane Jakubczak, University of Maryland). This is the quickest way to sabotage any and all weight loss goals. (Many have described weight loss as 70 percent eating and 30 percent exercise).
We often associate emotional eating with depression and then the customary stuffing of our faces to fill that void. I’ve been there too, but it’s bigger than that.
Like many, I thought emotional eating only occurred when I was sad or bored, but then I began to realize that I also ate when I was content or happy. As African Americans, we tend to celebrate everything with food. When my fiancé was accepted to an MBA program, I cooked him deserts; it felt natural.
But after looking in that mirror and realizing my relationship to food, I began to keep a food journal. I noticed that during my busiest days I wasn’t quite eating enough, and on slack days I was eating too much. And while it’s obvious to most how overeating can hinder weight loss, under-eating while still overeating at times can destroy a metabolism and lead to long-term weigh gain.
While keeping my journal, I was forced to think about everything I was putting in my mouth. Over time I was able to determine the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger.
For example, I was eating almost twice the amount of recommended protein that I needed to. The recommended amount is a palm full of protein, fruits and vegetables. Emotionally I felt as if I needed more, but in reality I didn’t. There are four key differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger:
1) Emotional hunger occurs suddenly, and physical hunger occurs gradually.
2) Eating to fill a void with requests for specific food is emotional eating. When you’re physically hungry, you are far less choosy, and you will stop eating because your stomach feels full.
3) Emotional eating tends to be instantly satisfied.
4) Emotional hunger leaves behind guilt, while physical hunger doesn’t. Over time, I realized that when upset I desperately wanted something sweet, like doughnuts or ice cream. After eating them, I always felt bloated and guilty.
Once you become aware of your emotional state, your physical actions will change for the better. Here are a few tips to help you deal with emotional eating.
Recognize emotional eating, and learn the triggers within you. Use a journal; it will force you to become more self-aware.
Make a list of things to do when you get the urge to eat and you’re not hungry. Carry it with you. Work through your emotions without food!
Stay productive; when you get bored, those cravings tend to sneak in. But a warning: When you’re tired, you may want to eat to keep yourself awake or busy. If you’re able, take a nap or recognize the craving. Your body is telling you it needs rest, not more food!
Lastly, when it comes to comfort foods, we may experience anxiety that may lead to emotional eating. To help with this, allow yourself some of the foods that you love, because this isn’t a diet — it’s a new way of eating. Do everything in moderation.
Exercise alone will not shed the fat. In order to safely cut the calories needed to lose that unwanted fat, you need to consider several things: age, height, weight and sex. You can refer to my blog to calculate your BMI or for more information about healthy food ideas!
Latrice Marie welcomes reader responses to mariecu08@ya hoo.com, or visit her at www.facebook.com/pages/Latrice-Marie/489150201109966.