April is Emotional Overeating Awareness Month, addressing a challenge experienced by many Americans─especially women. In fact, millions of people overeat in an attempt to numb their feelings with food, in the same way others might use alcohol or drugs.
Eating inappropriately is unhealthy, and not only because it promotes weight gain. When we stuff our feelings down with food, we’re not dealing with them, so anger, hurt, resentment, and pain continue to fester. This is a big reason why diets don’t work. Excess pounds often have more to do with emotional issues than with food per se. You can follow a diet for a while, but you’re destined to fail unless you examine the root causes linked to emotional overeating. These strategies can help:
Nourish yourself properly
If you eat a poor diet, you’re far more likely to succumb to cravings and junk food “soothers” in tough moments than people eating healthy meals. Why? Because nourishing foods satisfy your appestat─the area in the brain that is believed to regulate appetite and food intake. Getting enough daily protein is vital─followed by fresh produce. You should ideally consume more than half your body weight in total ounces of protein per day. Healthiest sources are whey protein shakes, seafood, beans/legumes, soy foods, poultry, lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products, etc. Choose organic whenever possible!
Heal with fitness
While a sedentary lifestyle is closely linked to depression and other emotional problems, fitness is the healthiest, most effective anti-depressant around─and it’s virtually free! But don’t wait until you’re down to go for it, because odds are at that point you won’t. The idea is to incorporate exercise into your life on a daily basis, which will minimize depression and empower you against the feelings of despair that promote emotional overeating. Fitness is empowering and puts you in control. You’ll be amazed at how you feel once you get in the fitness groove. Find the activities you prefer─with others or solo─and get walking, jogging, biking, hiking or swimming.
Stress and anxiety are strongly linked to emotional overeating, among other health problems. Stress may seem inevitable in our modern, often hectic lives, and in some ways, it is, but how you manage it is what matters. It’s imperative to set up non-food coping mechanisms to de- stress and break free from emotional overeating. These may include a hot bath─throw a couple of green tea bags in for a soothing, topical antioxidant infusion─a delicious nap, a great book, dinner with a friend, a massage, or other healthy comforts. Take this time for yourself; you deserve it! Try the tactics above, ask loved ones for support, and above all, remember, this is your journey. There are no mistakes, only lessons!