By Dyala Aljabi
Healthy eating and regular exercise play a vital role in maintaining mental health as well as physical health. If you have ever made room for dessert even though you may already feel full or dove into a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling miserable, this is for you!
Stress is a common feeling in our day-to-day lives. Exposure to prolonged stress can adversely affect our health. Emotional eating occurs when we don’t eat to satisfy hunger but unfortunately to satisfy our emotional needs.
Learning to recognise your emotional eating triggers is the first step to breaking free from compulsive over or under-eating. Mindful eating is a technique whereby the focus is centered on food and the eating experience. It involves paying attention to an eating experience with all of our senses (sight, taste, smell and touch) and being aware of the emotional and physical responses that take place before, during and after the experience. The purpose of mindful eating is to shift the focus on the how and what we eat and less on how much we eat. Psychologist and Food Addiction Therapy author, Kellee Waters explains the importance of paying attention to our body and our eating habits.
“It’s about pausing to really taste your food and listen to your body’s cues. We should all eat whenever we’re hungry and stop as soon as we’re full, but instead we get hung-up on habits and rules.” (Read more)
Here are some simple but effective ways to put an end to your emotional eating:
- Identify your triggers – Keep an emotional eating diary and write down what you ate, what happened to upset you, how you felt before you ate, what you felt as you were eating and how you felt afterwards (Trust me, it works!)
- Find other ways to feed your feelings – If you’re feeling depressed or lonely, speak to a friend who makes you feel happy. If you’re anxious, apply your nervous energy into squeezing a stress ball, taking a walk or treating yourself with a hot bath.
- Pause when cravings hit – Take a moment to stop and reflect when you are hit with a craving and give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
- Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits and get as much physical activity as possible (Cliché’ but true).
In the meantime, here are a few specific nutritional strategies that can help improve mood and maintain healthy brain functioning: