Up until a year ago, I never thought of myself as an emotional eater. I thought I just overate. Until I did a little experiment when I tracked my food and hunger levels for a week. It was an eye opener.
It didn’t matter if I was hungry, I just ate. Clearly food wasn’t just a source of fuel to power my body. Food (and the types I ate) provided fuel for my emotions.
It took a while, but I identified my top five eating triggers. Knowing your triggers is half the battle. Having great distractions or hobbies — exercising, cleaning, sewing — are a great way to help you keep mindless eating in check.
Dot’s Top 5 Emotional Eating Triggers
5. Social Eating – I loved hanging out with friends for happy hour and blowing off steam. But I always spent the next day with indigestion and feeling bloated. Once I put two and two together I started limiting alcohol and making better food choices (salad instead of fried mozzarella). Now when meeting friends, I’m more of a teetotaler and keep my healthy portions under control. After all, it’s their company I love, not the food.
4. Stress — I never thought of myself as a stress eater. I always equated stress with activity. Lots of deadlines and not enough time to get it all done. When I’m busy, I skip meals. What I didn’t factor in was my food choices during those meals I didn’t skip. I always went for comfort foods. It was my way to self-medicate when the pressure was on. Now that I know stress is a trigger, I try to do other things than eat – go for a walk, knitting, or crank the music and start a dance party with the dogs.
3. Rewards — I think about rewarding myself with frozen custard (hey, it’s low carb) after a great weigh-in. I’m working real heard to undo this one. Lately I’m rewarding my success with fun things that encourage my continued weight loss — a new cookbook, exercise clothes, or a manicure.
2. Watching TV – This one really is part of my number 1 trigger, but it deserves its own write up. I never eat and read. I guess I want my hands clean to flip to the next page. But eating and watching TV seem to go together. Just a few years ago I’d veg out on the couch mindlessly flipping channels and eating slice after slice of pizza. When I started losing weight my viewing time also diminished. I became more active and the TV screamed “couch potato” at me. When I do sit down in front of the TV, I try to watch something that keeps me on my toes (Sherlock, Walking Dead, Chopped). Like a good book, these shows keep me engaged and not thinking about food. But if I’m just vegging, that’s a danger zone and I always make sure I have laundry to do.
1. Boredom — If I’m bored out of my mind, I can open and close the refrigerator 20 times an hour. Am I hungry? Nope. It’s just something to do. Anytime I start feeling bored, I have some go to items to beat it back — books, puzzles, brushing the dogs, car keys (day trips!). There are lots of things to do, and none of them include eating!