How to Recover and Avoid Emotional Eating

Mindset and Recovery

Mindset and recovery are critical to overall health and wellbeing, AND without them, there’s no way you will sustain any of your health and fitness results. The biggest thing that gets in my way when I’m not on top of my mindset and recovery is our dear frenemy emotional eating. I often don’t even realize the underlying cause of my emotional eating (or stress eating) until after I’ve strayed from my diet, but my biggest triggers are 1. Feeling like I will never reach my goals, 2. PMS – the struggle is real, 3. Being too restrictive with my diet.

The last one is pretty easy for me to address, but it’s hard to turn down chocolate during that time of the month or to avoid turning to comfort food when I don’t feel like I’m making progress. Over time, I’ve discovered a few things that help me stick to my goals and healthy lifestyle, even when I all I want to do is eat a pack of cinnamon bun Oreos. They are all related to mindset and recovery, so if you improve one, you’ll improve the other!

Get Outside

Going for a walk or just spending time in nature has been shown to increase mood and decrease chances of getting depression. It can also help remind you how big the world is, and hopefully how small your problems are in comparison. I always feel less stressed or sad after going for a walk outside and will usually use this strategy to avoid eating something in my house that I shouldn’t!

Exercise for 5 Minutes

If you can commit to just five minutes of exercise, you’ll likely end up doing it for longer, and exercise boosts endorphins, which can help get you out of a funk or help you relieve some stress/anger. Trick your brain by committing to just five minutes and soon you’ll have done at least twice that and feel great! Try yoga to relax, boxing to release anger, and cardio to boost your mood.

Relax Someplace Warm

I love laying in the sun, soaking in hot tubs, or relaxing in a sauna — it’s the ultimate recovery! Plus, many comfort foods are served warm, and when I’m hot from the sauna the last thing I want is something warm to eat. I usually feel so calm and rejuvenated after an activity like this that I just want some water and to take a nap!

Listen to Music or Meditate

Research has shown that distracting yourself for just a few minutes can make you completely forget about a craving, and both music and meditation can be soothing and distracting enough to keep you from unnecessary snacking or bingeing. Music also makes me want to move and improves my mood, which makes me feel just about as good as exercising!

Tips for Beating Cravings

Why do we eat what we eat? Well, your cravings and taste preferences are influenced by EVERYTHING around you.

  • Some reasons are biological (we don’t like bitter flavors because poisonous foods tend to be bitter and we needed that instinct to survive, BUT we’re all programmed to love sugar. Sugar = energy!)
  • Some are from your time spent in the womb (for example: mothers who suffered severe morning sickness and didn’t replenish their salt intake may have given birth to babies who crave salt, and the very things your mom ate you ate, so if you really love a certain food and so does your mom … connect the dots!)
  • Some are based on our genetic makeup (like how many tastebuds you have and where they are located. People with more tastebuds are called “super tasters” and are sensitive to flavors, tasters have an average amount of buds and non-tasters have a harder time tasting — so much so that many non-tasters become alcoholics because they need more of a food/drink in order to taste the same as everyone else.)
  • And still some have developed over time from memories, traditions and our environment (you’re influenced by the lighting in restaurants, what music is playing, how many people you’re eating with, what you just watched on TV, the shape and color of your plate, the smells around you, and pretty much everything!)

Taking the time to learn WHY you might have recurring cravings can help you understand and therefore control them (like understanding why you always turn to a certain food when stressed – maybe your mom made it for you when you had a bad day? Maybe it’s something you were never allowed to have and now you use it to treat yourself?) For the cravings you just can’t seem to overcome, here are some strategies for holding out.

Distract Yourself

A study published in the Journal Appetite reported that when participants looked at “dynamic visual noise” on their smart phones for 8 seconds every time they experienced a food craving, cravings decreased and they consumed fewer calories.

Use Your Imagination

When study participants imagined themselves eating 30 M&Ms piece by piece, they ate half as many as when they imagined themselves doing a repetitive task that did not involve food. Trick your brain!

Use Your Sense of Smell

Breathing in certain aromas can kill your cravings because your sense of taste is intensely connected to your sense of smell. You can try two options: Sniff a scent like lemon or mint — something that doesn’t go well with whatever you’re craving — to make you not want it. Or, sniff the scent of whatever it is you are craving before actually eating it (like a cookie scented candle, or just taking the time to smell your indulgence before you take a bite.)

DON’T Restrict Foods IF You Can’t Handle It! 

If you crave certain foods as a result of restricting them from your diet, you should start incorporating those foods into your diet more. Not necessarily in the form of a “cheat meal” because mentally that will still signal to your brain that food is forbidden, but in a “Eating this cookie isn’t going to throw me off track so I don’t need to feel guilty about it and then binge eat 12 more cookies” kind of way. And if that means you eat one cookie every damn day, then good for you! This is the only way you’ll ever break that cycle!

For more tips on beating cravings and understanding your food preferences, I highly recommend the book “Why We Eat What We Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food” by Rachel Herz.

For help learning how to eat a balanced diet that can help you avoid emotional eating and overeating, check out the brand new program “2B Mindset” from Beachbody! (I am not a Beachbody coach and do not make money off their products, however, I do use them every day and believe in the programs.)

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