Eat Healthy for Under
Week 7: Eat for the Right Reasons
Cake on birthdays, ice cream after breakups, and casseroles for sick friends: Throughout our lives we are taught to celebrate and comfort others or ourselves with food. Stress and emotional eating go hand-in-hand.
"Being brought up this way makes it hard to see food as just food," says nutritionist Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, who designedPrevention's8-week healthy eating program. As a result eating often becomes paired with our emotions of happiness or sadness.
Luckily, it is never too late to change your emtional eating habits. By learning to recognize why you eat what and when you do, you can begin to develop a healthy relationship with food.
[sidebar]Print this week's program to pin on your fridge.
Are you aware of your emotions when you eat? Some people know they're reaching for food because they are angry or sad, while others only realize why they ate after the fact. If you're unsure, start keeping a food and emotions journal. Write down what, where, and how much you ate, along with how you were feeling before, during and after. You might be surprised what you learn.
Understanding how food and your feelings are connected is an important key to breaking the emotional eating cycle. Try this exercise to learn more about your emotional ties to food. Complete this sentence: when I'm upset, eating makes me feel (list all that comes to mind). This exercise will help you understand what emotional eating gives you. In order to stop using food to feel a certain way, you must find other ways to meet these needs.
How in tune with your body signals are you? Do you know what hunger and fullness feel like? Becoming more aware of these signals can help you distinguish a physical need for food from an emotional eating need. If you find yourself thinking about food, check in with your body. If there are no hunger signals, ask yourself how you're feeling emotionally, and what you can do to feel better that doesn't involve eating.
Is stress one of the main reasons you eat? Preventing stress from building up is one strategy for reducing the need to use food to cope. Think of a scale from 1-10, with ten being the highest degree of stress. Check in with your stress level each day. Try not to let it climb above a 5 by using stress management techniques to reduce the build-up: deep breathing, walking, stretching, and reaching out to friends.
Practice mindful eating. When you're distracted by the television, computer, or newspaper, it's harder to pay attention to how much and how fast you're eating. Try eating one meal a day without any distractions. Focus instead on the pace of your eating, the taste and texture, how full you are, and what you're feeling emotionally. Simply slowing down when you eat can help you be more aware of how your emotions are impacting how much and how fast you eat. Put your fork, spoon or food down between each bite, take a deep breath, and relax while you eat. If you find yourself wanting to eat faster, try to figure out what's bothering you and what you can do about it.
How aware are you of your mind/body connection? Emotions create physical symptoms in our bodies such as neck or back pain, headaches, jaw pain, chest tightening, or stomach pain. You may also find yourself biting your nails, tugging on your hair, or biting your lip when your emotions run high. Tuning into these signs can help you identify the need for a healthy outlet. If stress tends to strike you at work, create an "anti-stress kit." It might include an MP3 player loaded with a 5-minute guided mediation or other relaxing music, a pair of walking shoes for walking off tension during your break, or a novel you can read 5-10 pages of at lunch. Simply giving yourself a mini-vacation in the middle of your day can help you avoid turning to food.
Do you suffer from "yesism" -- the inability to say no? Not being able to set boundaries can make you turn to food as an outlet, or for comfort. Try setting a goal of politely saying "no" the next time you're asked to take on any additional responsibilities. When you find your stress level rising, and your thoughts turning toward food, try a visualization exercise. Close your eyes and take yourself to a relaxing setting; perhaps a past vacation spot. Simply visualizing a calming environment can reduce your tension and help you get through the day without needing to turn to emotional eating.
Video: The fitness project 2018 - Week 8 guideline - How much to eat?
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