It’s called “comfort food” for a reason — some foods evoke happy memories and help relieve stress.
However, healthy eating habits depend on knowing the difference between an occasional indulgence and emotional eating, which is when we use food to make ourselves feel better. When you notice yourself reaching for snacks when you aren’t hungry, it might be time to consider whether you’re eating emotionally.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to get back on track with healthy eating habits.Here are eight tips and tricks to try.
Write down what you eat throughout the day to stay mindful of the food you’re using to fuel your body.
It is important to be honest about what you’re eating (and how much). You could even make notes about your moods before meals or snacks, which will provide additional context around your relationship with food.
Exercise is a foundational part of a healthy lifestyle. It can also serve as a productive distraction from cravings, so try going for a quick walk the next time you have the urge to snack mindlessly.
Are you actually hungry, or do you just want food? Is your stomach rumbling? Adapting to become more aware of your body’s true needs, as opposed to what you want out of boredom or anxiety, is called intuitive eating. This is a great way to practice how you think about food and what it means for your body.
Whenever possible, eat without other distractions, like the TV or your smartphone. This allows you to give full attention to what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. You’ll notice when you’re starting to feel full, which makes it easier to stop eating once you’re satiated.
When you focus on dieting, counting calories, or depriving yourself of foods that are “bad,” it’s much harder to make healthier choices. You become stressed and overwhelmed, which takes the joy out of eating.
Don’t be afraid to let go and enjoy your favorite foods every once in a while. If you enjoy them mindfully and without guilt, you’ll be one step closer to gaining control of your emotional eating.
If you always reach for cookies when you’re feeling sad, or chips when you’re bored, try to find a new, healthier alternative the next time you go grocery shopping. This can help break the emotional connection you have to some of your go-to snacks, and you may discover new favorites in the process.
Building good eating habits should not fill you with despair because you think it’s too big of a challenge. Just take it one step at a time. As you learn how to keep your cravings and emotional eating under control, be proud of yourself for putting in the hard work it takes to develop new habits.