Are you an emotional eater? If so, you are not alone. Too many of us grab a sugary treat at 3pm or after dinner to help deal with emotions such as stress, anxiety, fatigue and even joy. While a small amount of emotional eating is no big deal (i.e. having an ice cream cone when you feel like it!)– when it becomes a pattern you cannot break, it can often cause weight gain and ill health.

Emotional eating (or drinking) rarely occurs at the beginning of the day (when stress is usually at its lowest point). For most, the urge to binge or overeat to sooth occurs at 3 different times which are;

1. Late afternoon (i.e. 3-4pm). — to boost energy and ward off stress. This tends to happen after kids get home from school or late afternoon at work.
2. Following dinnertime — The urge or desire for something sweet or “more” hits.
3. Alone at night— when feeling like you deserve a reward for a hard day or eating mindlessly in front of the TV.

To determine if you are eating due to emotions (happy, bored, sad, lonely etc), ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you experience intense cravings for carbohydrates, salts or sweets?
2. Do you often eat after dinnertime?
3. Do you find you often think of food?
4. Do you experience guilt or shame after you overeat?
5. Does your weight and food intake determine your mood?
6. Do you find you eat mindlessly (i.e. are not even aware of what you eat for a 24 hour period)?
7. Do you eat at a table or sit in front of a TV or screen at your desk ?
8. If you are expressing a stressful situation do you tend to turn to food to make you feel better temporarily?
9. Do you weigh yourself often?
10. Do you eat with friends and family or do you tend to eat alone?


The good news is, if you are an emotional eater and identify with the above bullet points – this can be changed! Simply follow the steps below.

1. Play the dot game. Put a dot of ink on your hand. For 1 week, prior to eating any food look at the dot and ask yourself “how will this make me feel?”. If the answer is “not good” – put the food down and make another choice. Looking at the dot for 1 week prior to any food choice will snap you into immediate mindfulness eating.

2. Food journal. Food journaling is also a very effective way of becoming aware of your food intake. Research is very clear, people who food journal lose more weight.

3. Watch your after dinner food behaviors – this is often a time where a lot of the “nutritional damage” is done. Research has shown nighttime eating does cause more belly fat storage than eating earlier in the day. I always recommend keeping “free foods” on hand to snack on such as vegetables, vegetable soup, sweet herbal teas or 2 skinnychews (with inulin fiber to fill you up!)

4. Identify your triggers. Is your trigger stress, work, your mother in law, time of day? Identifying your triggers will break the pattern you are in.

5. Drink water. Water will help fill you up and move past a potential binge.

6. Avoid refined flours and sugars. These types of high glycemic index foods make sugar cravings heighten.
Most of all – be patient with yourself. Breaking the cycle of emotional eating can often take a bit of time. With repetition and patience you will create a permanent shift towards awareness eating!

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