What to do INSTEAD of eating Tip 1: Figure out what emotional need you are attempting to meet by eating.
Often times we eat to solve an emotional need. Before you grab for the snack or second helping of food, check in with yourself. If you’re actually hungry – then eat! If you’re not, take a moment to find out how you are feeling. This may be something you have to learn how to do and it may take some trial and error, so be nice to yourself.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever eaten to avoid feeling the following emotions:
- Stress (umm… everyone is raising their hands here)
Eating as a way of coping with emotions is called Emotional Eating.
Notice not all of the emotions on the list are negative emotions. It’s perfectly normal to cope with positive emotions by eating too. Think birthday celebrations, baby showers, treat yo’ self girls trips, etc.
Sometimes figuring out how you feel isn’t so simple. You might notice behavior patterns first.
Signs that you are feeling something, and need to get to the root of what it is:
- You are procrastinating. There can be a lot of emotions around this, but usually procrastination is rooted in boredom or fear. With either, taking a structured timeout to practice self-care can help, and if your procrastination is rooted in fear (of failure, consequences, etc.) that is something worth discussing with a close friend or therapist.
- You are watching too much TV. TV is stimulating and provides a certain amount of pleasure. I see with my clients this is the go-to when they’ve had a long work day and are tired. They may be better served by going to bed but then that means they’ve spent the entire day doing joyless tasks or serving others and don’t get any time for themselves. Perhaps you can relate? The solution is often as simple as carving out a few minutes to do something you enjoy – and giving yourself permission to do it!
- You aren’t treating other people the way you wish you were. Maybe it’s being short with your spouse, kids, or coworkers, or that touch of driving aggression. You are likely feeling unsupported in some way. As hard as it is, ask for help!
- You are tired. You are not alone, sister! (and brother!) Tiredness has a lot of biological roots like lack of sleep, imbalanced blood sugar, and teenagers. Ok teenagers aren’t likely the sole root of this problem. If attempts to manage the other aspects of sleep aren’t working, consider exploring emotional roots to discover your energy again. Oftentimes fatigue is a sign of more serious mental health disorders like depression or PTSD, so if this point is speaking to you, reach out to a Therapist today.
What to do INSTEAD of eating Tip 2: Give yourself permission to do something that meets your emotional need.
Maybe it’s to have a little fun, maybe it’s a bit of relaxation – whatever it is, it’s not on your to-do list.
It can be tempting to want to skip the food and just power through your day, but that hardly ever meets the emotional need. And when exhaustion sets in from a to-do list day, you’re back to numbing out in front of the TV, likely with a bag of something in your hands.
So take a beat, even if it’s just 10 minutes, and care for your emotional needs.
What to do INSTEAD of eating Tip 3: Recognize that emotional eating isn’t always bad.
Emotional eating is only a problem when it gets in the way of your health goals. It is normal and okay to occasionally eat when you aren’t hungry. A cupcake at your granddaughter’s birthday party, a shared appetizer on vacation – these are part of a full and happy life.
Now, if you take a lot of vacations or have 27 grandkids then that full and happy life may get in the way of your health goals, at which time it’s a good idea to find other ways to celebrate.
What to do INSTEAD of eating Tip 4: Get help when you need it.
People often fail to recognize that emotional eating has served as a useful coping mechanism. Feelings…well…they can be hard to deal with. Especially if you were never taught how to cope with your feelings, or you’ve experienced trauma in your life. Even those of us who feel we have reasonable emotional intelligence can get overwhelmed. If you don’t want to use emotional eating as a coping mechanism anymore, then you need to find other ways to cope.
For some this may involve working with a therapist to untangle trauma or unsupportive thought patterns.
For others a bit of intentional personal work can do the trick.
If you need ideas for ways to meet your emotional needs without eating, keep reading.
If you’ve identified emotional eating as a big barrier to your health goals, check out my course “Overcome Emotional Eating with Science and Grace for Women”. I am also available to support you one-on-one to help you become the better nourished, less stressed, and more energized version of yourself.
Without further ado, here is your guide for what to do instead of eating, organized by emotions:
- Take a bath
- Turn on some nature sounds or other word-free music
- Light a candle and turn the lights down
- Read a cozy book
- Take a nap
- Write down 10 things you are thankful for, bonus if it’s a person – tell them!
- Mediate or do a breathing exercise
- Buy some gorgeous flowers and arrange them
- Go get a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure (or do one at home!)
- Call a loved one
- Give someone a hug
- Go somewhere and people watch
- Get it on (you know what I mean)
- Grab and pal and go shopping
- Deliver a meal or goodies to a new mom or sick friend
- Find a likeminded community on MeetUp and join them
- Join a crafting site and learn how to make a new craft
- Get out those craft supplies you’ve been meaning to play with, and do it!
- Read an educational book
- Watch a Youtube video on something you’ve always wanted to know how to do
- Plan your dream vacation
- Look at pretty things – go to an art museum, fabric store, or store that calls your name
- Organize something (OK I know this one sounds like a bummer, but you know that accomplished feeling you get when you’re done? Yah, that’s right)
- Eat the thing you are craving, and enjoy the HECK out it! Savor every second without guilt. Consider why it’s such a special food to you.
- Take a walk around your neighborhood
- Turn up your favorite song and DANCE!
- Take a class at a local gym – yoga, dance,
- Turn on a Youtube walking video in your living room and get to steppin’
- Go on a hike
- Sign up for a local charity race and begin a Couch to 5k program
- Spend time with an animal (if you don’t have one, I know a neighbor has a dog you can walk!)
- Feelings Inventory
- Find a Therapist – a great way to search for therapists by insurance/specialty in your area. My recommendation is that you find at least 3 who might work for you and call to request a free phone consultation to see if they are a good fit for you and have availability. Sometimes finding a therapist can be hard, but don’t give up!
- MeetUp– Find groups of likeminded people in your area. Try searching for hiking groups in your area!
- Youtube walking videos I love
(Note: I get no compensation if you use these resources, I am just recommending them because they are awesome)