Are you one of those people who are triggered to eat when you feel stress, worry, anxiety, depression or other uncomfortable emotions? Not to worry. You are not alone. Many people bury negative emotions with food.
It doesn’t improve your ability to handle emotions and, in fact, often creates other issues related to your health to boot like weight gain. This, of course, leads to other uncomfortable emotions related to your self-image.
So what is a body to do? Well, the good news is that you are not without strategies to help you to not allow your emotional states to dominate your eating selections.
Here are 3 tips to help you to choose healthier foods when emotions may trigger those uncontrolled binges.
First, determine where you are likely to experience the triggered emotional eating response. Does the work environment trigger your uncontrolled binge sessions whereby you find yourself eating what and more than you should at work?
Or, do you gunnysack all those emotions during the work day and then binge out to relieve stress when you get home?
Traveling for work? Does that serve as your trigger from all the stress which your changing work demands and environment provide?
Once you have the trigger environments and circumstances pin pointed for yourself, it’s time to take the next step.
Once triggered, what is it that you find yourself binging on? Are you a chocoholic or sugar binger? Is it snacky-type foods like chips, peanut butter crackers, pretzels or some other kind of snack food, often available in the vending machine at work, for example?
At work, when they put out the snacks, junk foods, cookies, candy, cakes etc. use your substitutes, have a cup of greeen tea or coffee or simply avoid the snack location until your health and will power improves and it won’t matter. (It won’t after a while, believe it or not, when you experience the improved level of health you now have.)
OK, got the trigger pinned down? Now, take the next step.
Find suitable alternatives to those snack foods that won’t bulge the waist and break the healthy eating bank.
Chips? Make yourself up a healthy mix of nuts, seeds and throw in some organic raisins for a touch of sweetness if you want.
Healthier nuts and seeds include (organic recommended as always):
Not big on peanuts but your choice as always. Whatever your selection, make it the best available quality you can get.
This also implies removing the bad choices from your environment. If you have bad selections in the home environment, chances are you will eventually give in and eat them. So, discard the bad stuff at home or around the office which can sabotage your good intentions.
Another healthy substitute for snack binges – rice cakes. I select the organic, no-salt variety myself to keep the sodium under control. You have more choices here than you think.
Eat them plain to satisfy a chips craving or add a spread for a nutritional content boost and flavor. For example, almond or sunflower butter (no sugar organic variety is recommended) makes a nice spread. Vary with some natural and organic peanut butter for variety from time to time if you wish.
Another good spread is hummus which you can make up yourself more economically and quickly too. Here’s a good basic hummus prep recipe which you can vary according to your tastes. Takes about 10-15 minutes tops and is controllably healthy.
You can also make a health advocado spread or simply bring a sufficiently ripened advocado and slice it up to top your rice cake. Add a little salt, spritz of lemon juice, a bit of garlic powder or twist of pepper or slice of fresh tomato is optional and you are good to go.
Cheaper and way better quality than those vendor bought, high sodium, low nutrient quality chips for sure.
That’s it! In about 10 or 15 minutes, even less as you get better at the process and you have yourself 2-3 or even more days worth of spread for your rice cakes. Not costly. Not time-consuming. Adds protein, a bit of carbohydrate and satisfies the snack cravings.
Put your spread in a separate container and use on that rice cake when it’s time for a snack at home or work or both. Add a cup of tea and your craving will subside and adjust as will your emotionally driven need.
For the emotional eater, one way to conquer those cravings is to select busy foods. What do we mean by “busy foods”?
These are the foods that are healthy, but require more time to chew and digest than others. They usually are also the same foods that fill you up faster as well.
For example, carrot and celery sticks are a busy food selection. You can’t just take two bites and two chews and swallow them. You really have to chew up and take your time with something like carrots or other hard vegetables.
They fill you up healthfully, offer you natural fiber, and are good for your digestive system. By choosing these foods you will eat less, eat better, clean your system, and help with weight gain.
Use the quick hummus recipe above to add some protein and carbs with this busy food choice to additionally satisfy your taste buds and add a bit of variety and nutritional content to your snack.
You have to work this out if you want to be healthy and lose weight too. Don’t let emotional triggers undermine your health.
You can use the nut-seed-raisin mix above to help. Another suggestion is to look for those healthy snack bars that are low in sugar. Here is a list of the highest rated bars from Consumer Reports [CR] (FYI – 4 grams = 1 teaspoon of sugar):
Bars are not the best regular snack to rely upon, but are useful for variety and for weaning yourself off commercial sugar selections.
What to look for is low sugar – 8g or less better, organic if possible, lower sodium is better, protein is a secondary issue with this choice. You are looking to satisfy the sugar snack craving with the least damage to your health program.
A fruit snack can help. A cut melon selection you prepared. A mix of berries and melon or just a berry mix. A banana, apple mix of fresh fruits.
Fruit juice is not recommended. See this video for why:
Most people aren’t aware that your hunger and thirst centers are located in the same area of the brain (the hypothalamus in the cerebellum). Sometimes what you mistake for hunger may just be a need for hydration.
So, to keep hunger under control make sure you are well hydrated. You may mistake hunger for thirst if you need to be hydrated in place of solid foods.
Drink an adequate amount of water during the day. Add a little squirt of that organic lemon or lime juice you use for the hummus, if you aren’t used to drinking plain filtered water.
Another useful liquid is plain organic green or white tea. Even a cup of black coffee. (Note: One cup will do and make sure it is black. If you add sugar, even cream you are working against yourself. Dairy adds weight and fat. Add a teaspoon of MCT Oil as cream substitute. Much healthier and good for your brain as well.
Remember, the body doesn’t distinguish between honey, maple syrup etc. either. To the body, the response to blood sugar rises are the same. The concentration of sugar increase in the bloodstream determines the psysiological response, not its quality.
Proper hyration will control food and sugar cravings and can also substitute or quell hunger until you can get to better quality food.
Bonus Tip: Famished when you get home from work? Don’t break out the snacks, as or before you prepare dinner, spoiling your appetite and health program goals.
Instead, have a cup of tea or even warm filtered water with a little spritz or lemon or lime juice. This will quell the appestat mechanism to control your hunger until dinner is prepared and ready.
I trust these tips will get you started in winning the battle against emotionally triggered eating. There are more strategies needed, of course. The end goal is to keep you on the path to better health giving you the control not your ever-constant emotional stressors.
One hand washes the other in this case however because the healthier you are, the better you will tolerate stress and negative emotions – a win-win situation for you.
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