When most people start a weight loss program, they often find that they’re in an unhealthy relationship with food. Food is often used as a comfort or distraction from what’s going on in our lives. We seem to be getting busier and busier with many stressors bogging us down and testing our limits. In order to relax and deal with stress, we may pick up a bottle of wine on the way home and enjoy it with a big, greasy meal for dinner, along with a pint of ice-cream to treat ourselves after a long day. In the moment, the food tastes so good and seems to satisfy all those feelings you’ve dealt with throughout the day, but later you feel the guilt of your binge and you end up feeling worse then you originally did. This is called Emotional Eating, or Stress Eating, and it’s a big obstacle that may be in your way of losing weight.

It’s true – we don’t always eat just to satisfy our hunger. We use food as a coping mechanism that helps us relieve stress at the end of the day, deal with the sadness we feel at night or to keep us entertained when we start feeling bored. When we eat a bunch of carbohydrates that are packed with fats and sugars, chemicals are released in our brains that make us feel great. While in the moment we might feel better, later you’ll begin to notice those bad feelings coming back again along with the guilt of eating too much. Emotional Eating means you use food to help make yourself feel better. You’re eating to help satisfy your emotional needs rather than eating to satisfy your hunger.

While using food as an occasional “pick-me-up” or reward is not always a negative, the problems begin when you’re using food as your primary emotional coping mechanism and you’re not addressing the reasons behind your unhealthy habits and why you’re feeling the way you are. While eating junk food may give you a temporary bliss, your emotional feelings can’t be satisfied with food, no matter how hard you try. Food should not be used as a comfort or as a distraction but used as fuel to keep you physically healthy.

Here are a few tips for breaking the cycle of emotional eating and how to get back on track with your weight loss:

Keep Track

While it’s important in a weight loss program to keep track of what you’re eating, if you find that emotional and stress eating is something that you’re prone to, keep track of how you’re feeling when you eat. At Motive Weight Loss Center, we provide you with a calendar to help track what, when, and how much you’re eating, but it’s also important to keep track of how you’re feeling as you’re eating. When you have a record of your habits, you’re able to see a pattern and correlation in your feelings and your eating. By looking at this, you’ll be able to better understand your behavior and make adjustments. It’s important to hold yourself accountable and keeping track of your habits will help you do so.

Find Ways to Manage Stress

If you begin to see patterns in your eating behaviors based on stress level, maybe it’s time to refocus your attention on what is happening in your life and what is bothering you and try new ways to keep your stress and emotions under management. Maybe find a new workout that helps keep you distracted like kickboxing or sign up for a meditative yoga class. What works for some people doesn’t always work for others, so maybe try a few different techniques until you find one you really love and that works for YOU. The most important thing is to get rid of eating as a coping mechanism and find a healthy alternative.

Remember Your Goals

It’s sometimes hard to keep sight on your goals when your life is a little on the crazy side, and your emotions are everywhere. It’s always important to remember your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. While a good, carb heavy comfort meal may make you feel great when you’ve had a bad day, it’s not going to help you reach your goals down the road. It’s also important to think about your motivations and why you want to lose weight, and it should help remind you why you shouldn’t give up. While in the moment stress eating may feel great, later on you might wish you found another way to deal with how you were feeling, and what was going on around you.

Accept and Reflect

We are all human and slip ups do happen! It’s important to forgive yourself if you go a little overboard on your meal and have things that you know are not on your program, or things that are just not good for you. You’re human and you’re allowed to make mistakes. Accept the mistake, reflect on how you can prevent it from happening in the future, and move on! Use the mistake as a learning tool and plan for a way to avoid the setback in the future. You can’t go back, you can only go forward. Keep moving – you’ll get there!

At Motive Weight Loss Center, we’re more than just losing weight. We focus on learning healthy habits and creating a healthy lifestyle. Our Motive Weight Loss Coaches are here to help you every step of the way and be your biggest cheerleader and support system, to help get you through those difficult stages in your journey. If you’re ready to make the first step towards your healthiest YOU, contact us today to schedule your initial consultation!