Eating Food – or Your feelings?
How to figure out what’s behind an urge to eat.
Get at the real reason you’re tempted to eat.
We’re all had to eat when we weren’t physically hungry. And no wonder: Our 24/7 media beams ads that make even so-so food look good. Friends and family encourage us to join in (food-centered) celebrations. And emotions play a big role. There is a reason why they are called comfort foods. It’s not just sadness; boredom, fatigue, stress, and joy can prompt us to eat, too.
Call out these temptations for what they are: external cues that have nothing to do with whether you’re actually hungry. Then see how to steer the power back to your side of the table.
Tempted to eat when … the food is free or cheap? It’s hard to pass up what seems like a “great deal,” like an expense-account meal or a buffet. But remind yourself that it’s only a bargain if you feel healthy and satisfied after you’ve eaten; “free” food can cost you. At a buffet, scan the food, decide what you’d like to try, then choose your meal and enjoy it.
Tempted to eat when … it’s a special occasion? Weddings, birthday, baby showers are full of joy – and often, high point plus value foods. But the focus should be on the folks being feted, so stick with your plan. Maybe have a salad first. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Take small sips of your wine, and have a club soda before you decide to have a second glass.
Tempted to eat when … you’re bored, tired, sad, worried, or happy? Name the emotion you’re feeling. What can you do ease that feeling, without food? When you’re tired, for example, a 15 minute walk – or catnap – might help. Bored? Tackle a long-put-off task. Anxious? Call a friend or blow off steam with a workout video. (Also see “What do I really want?” at right.)
Tempted to eat when … you’re being pushed? Whether someone is offering (and offering again) until you “can’t say no,” or you’re channeling a childhood rule to clean your plate, protect your Plan. Compliment the chef while taking care of yourself: “This is delicious! I’d love to take some home so I can enjoy it later, too.” At home, serve smaller portions, don’t eat off your kids’ plates, and pack away leftovers immediately.
Tempted to eat when … when it’s mealtime? It’s noon and that means lunch, right? Not necessarily. If you’re not hungry, go for a walk, get some air, and eat a healthy meal later. If your work schedule isn’t flexible, or you have a dinner reservation, plan your eating so that you have an appetite when mealtime hits.
What do I really want?
Think back on a time you ate when you ween’t hungry. Then try this reframing exercise to help you find a non-food way to feed a feeling.
What I was really feeling?
How else I could address the emotion instead of eating?