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Emotional Eating Solutions

December 7, 2008 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Obesity is perhaps the greatest health challenge of our time. It doesn’t just make us fat. It also makes us sick. And the number of people becoming overweight is growing at a staggering rate.

It’s important to remember that obesity doesn’t just affect the way we look and how we feel. It also contributes to some of the deadliest diseases known to man. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea (a loss of oxygen while sleeping characterized by loud snoring) and increased stroke risk is just a partial list of diseases to which obesity contributes.

Why is this epidemic falling upon us now? Are we just eating more than prior generations? Is it the food choices that we’re making or are we simply less active then we used to be? The answer, in most instances, is yes, yes and yes. But, there’s at least one more piece to this weight gain explosion.

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating refers to a pattern whereby we eat when we don’t really need any added nutrition. When we eat emotionally, we often use food to help soothe painful emotions, stress or simply to cope with boredom. One explanation is that emotional eaters eat excessively in order to fill their feelings of emptiness.

I’ve experienced this in my own life. The term “comfort food” is very familiar to me. But, as of late, I’ve learned some methods to manage this destructive behavior. I’d like to share some of these methods with you. I’ll also include some guidance from the most recent issue of Natural Health Magazine (the December/January 2009 issue) on this very topic.

Tips for Overcoming Emotional Eating

  • Take a good look at the amount of food you’re planning on eating. Our eyes can assist us, if we use them consciously.
  • Try to eat more slowly. Chew your food thoroughly. Don’t “wolf” your food down. Eating too quickly is hard on your digestive system and it doesn’t allow for your body and mind to realize when they’ve been properly nourished.
  • If you normally eat with the television on, try ending that habit. It’s perfectly fine to eat with company. Eating together with people tends to slow down our eating. Eating alone while watching TV tends to distract us from a normal feeling of fullness.
  • Avoid drinking too much with your meals. In particular, avoid drinking anything sweet with your meals. Sweet drinks tend to (unnaturally) stimulate your appetite.
  • Keep a journal of what foods you eat throughout the day. Also, take note of how you’re feeling on those days. See if you can make an accurate association between negative feelings and overeating. If you become convinced that this is a pattern for you, it’s more likely that you’ll consciously try to change things.
  • Find healthier versions of “comfort foods”. I’ll share one of my recipes at the end of this blog.
  • Finally, try to find simple methods that help you to de-stress, such as: a quick, five-minute meditation session*, a short walk in a natural setting, saying some affirmations to yourself** or calling a friend or a “diet-buddy” to blow off some steam.

* Here’s an example of a simple meditation: Try to find a reasonably quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe gently in through your nose and out through your mouth. Imagine that you are breathing in peace and tranquility, and breathing out stress and any negative emotion that you may feel. Even five minutes of meditation can be very effective.

** Examples of some self- affirmations: “Getting stressed-out won’t help anything”, “I will find a solution to my problems”, “I deserve to relax and take good care of myself.”

Mashed Cauliflower

I use this recipe as an alternative to creamy, delicious mashed potatoes. Mmmm.

Cauliflower is a remarkably healing food. It’s also much lower in carbohydrates and calories than potatoes.

Please note that this recipe is relatively high in fat. This is intentional. It’s also rich in fiber. Fat and fiber are excellent appetite-satisfiers.

I often combine this side dish with some grilled salmon and my tummy and mind feel well cared for. Hope yours will too!

1. Steam about 16 oz of cauliflower florets. You can use fresh cauliflower or buy the pre-cut frozen variety. Make sure you steam them until they’re very tender.

2. Sautee some diced garlic in a pan in a small amount of butter and olive oil.

3. Once ready, remove the cauliflower from the steam and add it to a pot with the sauteed garlic mixture.

4. Add 2oz. of natural cream cheese and 2oz of natural heavy cream to the cauliflower and garlic. Combine all ingredients on low heat.

5. Mash or puree all the ingredients. I use an immersion blender, but a simple potato masher would also work.

6. Finally, just season to taste. I use organic pepper and a salt substitute (that’s rich in potassium) to add the final touch.

7. Enjoy! I think you’ll really like it!

Be well (and eat consciously)!


Additional Resources:

Link: De-Stressing Moves from a Brain Expert

Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Recipes

9 Comments & Updates to “Emotional Eating Solutions”

  1. Ali Says:

    Hey JP,

    Interesting blog. I’ve battled with this problem for years. Will definitely try your mashed cauliflower recipe! Could use some healthy “comfort food” options.

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, Ali. Let me know what you think of the mashed cauli.

    Be well!


  3. natali Says:

    I think we all battle with this problem. I will let you know of a way to help. Acupuncture is beneficial in stopping cravings ant the same time improving on your emotional state

  4. Maria Lisa Says:

    I read this as a follow-up to your blog on Sugary Food ADDICTIONS. THANK YOU for the ideas…bet your recipe is super tasty, too!

  5. JP Says:

    Thank you, natali and Maria Lisa.

    natali – It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that acupuncture could help with emotional eating.

    Acupuncture helps with such a broad array of symptoms – both physical and psychological symptoms.

    Have you had any personal experience with acupuncture helping with negative emotional states? If so, please tell us about it.

    Maria Lisa – I hope you’ll try the recipe and let me know if you like it.

    Be well!


  6. julie Says:

    really good I am posting it to face book and my diet site! great recipe I will try it!

  7. JP Says:

    I hope you enjoy it, Julie.

    It’s one of our regular recipes at our home. In fact, I just made some earlier today!

    Be well!


  8. Lynne Says:

    my problem is I get emotional when I don’t eat.

  9. JP Says:

    Ha! 🙂

    You’ve got to eat and eat enough to satisfy your body’s requirements. Low blood sugar is bad news for any bear. 🙂

    I think a few really powerful tools to help with this are: be really conscious of what we’re eating (“eat with our mind”), eat more slowly, drink less during meals and choose foods with adequate protein, fat and fiber. Going easy on the carbs and even whole grains, in sensitive people, may curb cravings.

    Also, anything that lifts up your emotional state could help impact appetite. You need less comfort food if you find comfort/satisfaction elsewhere. This isn’t always easy to do, but I think it’s something to strive for.

    Be well!


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