Fortunately, emotional eating is something you can learn to take control of, say experts. Here are 20 tips to keep comfort eating at bay:
- Keep a food diary for at least a week. "In your diary, record data under these column headings: Time, place, food eaten, amount, and your feelings," advises Shondelle Solomon-Miles, personal trainer and author of The Ultimate Fat Loss Guide. Identifying any stress, emotions or thoughts that trigger eating will help you understand why you're eating.
- Identify your emotional eating pattern. "Many people find that overeating tends to occur at specific times and in specific places," adds Solomon-Miles. For example, you may find that you crave chocolates whenever you feel overwhelmed by your work, or that you mindlessly eat in front of the TV in the evening out of boredom.
- Once you've identified your triggers, work out alternatives that remove you from the situation that results in overeating. For instance, plan ahead and allocate your workload so it is evenly spread outspread out your workload, or take a walk with your dog in the evening or call a friend instead of sitting down in front of the TV.
- Emotional eating is more likely to strike later on in the day rather than morning and early afternoon. Don't eat so little at breakfast and lunch that you pig out at night.
- Plan for moments of weakness by stocking up on healthier snacks such as tomato juice, low-fat crackers, non-fat popcorn, pretzels, frozen fruits and ice pops.
- Next time you feel a craving, make sure it's not an impulsive temptation by giving yourself a 10-minute "cooling period". Ask yourself: Are you really hungry? Recognizing that you don't need it makes a big difference in resisting it. If you still want that slice of cake after 10 minutes, it's still there.
- Know when to succumb to your cravings. It's okay to treat yourself occasionally, but be careful with the portion -- if you really want some ice-cream, just buy a single-serving size instead of a whole tub so you won't overeat.
- Make eating an activity by itself. Savor the experience instead of pairing it with other activities like watching TV or reading. "Consciously eat slowly to give your stomach time to tell your brain when it's full," says Solomon-Miles. If you're still hungry after your meal, wait 20 minutes before having a second helping.
- Having junk food around the house is a disaster waiting to happen. Refrain from buying less-than-healthy snacks back -- you can't eat the wrong food if you don't stock it. If that box of donuts is not there when you're craving for it out of boredom instead of hunger, ask yourself: Are you willing to go out and buy it? Chances are, not likely.