Reaching out for that bar of chocolate or potato chips when you're feeling low, upset or tired is a situation that most of us are familiar with. Emotional eaters tend to lose the least amount of weight and have the hardest time keeping it off.
Food has the uncanny ability to make us feel better but to depending on it for emotional support does more harm than good in the long run. Whether you're a diet junkie, a comfort eater or a binger, most people fall under one of these categories. Here's how to snap out of your problematic patterns and find the right solution that works for you.
Ask yourself why you want to eat when you aren't physically hungry. Is it to fill a void or are you genuinely low on energy? It has now been established that cravings are most often triggered by emotions, which include anxiety and even boredom.
Many women expect diets to change their body shape, which may explain why some, frustrated by the lack of effect from their efforts, have trouble maintaining specific diets and revert to specific dietary patterns. If women are dieting with the belief that weight loss will lead to shape change, they will fail to achieve their aim and this is reason that diets are likely to be short-lived and, ultimately, unsuccessful.
One of the first things you need to do is to accept the fact that you are an emotional eater. To curb emotional eating, maintain a food diary where you jot down everything you eat, the time you eat and the emotions you are feeling at that exact moment. This will help you identify a pattern and deal better with your overeating.
Internet dieting has exploded in the last few years, attracting many different types of eaters who generally lack the time to attend face-to-face meetings or those too embarrassed to get on a scale in front of strangers and admit their problem. However, being anonymous helps many of these people keep faithful records of their weight without the pressure of weigh-in meetings. Here are the 7 most common eaters attracting to self-help dieting forums and the suggestions to resolve their problem:
1) THE NIBBLER: You snack throughout the day -- whether you're hungry or not. You reject formal diet plans because you think your way of eating is better but never seem to lose weight.
The Problem: You're constantly thinking about the next snack. You're in danger of eating too much, too often.
The Solution: Stick to three meals a day plus two healthy snacks (such as fruit, carrot sticks or oat cakes with hummus), and eat nothing else in between.
2) THE GORGER: Though you want to lose weight, you find yourself consuming large amounts of junk food or ready-to-eat meals.
The Problem: This pattern is driven by emotional triggers -- you gorge if you feel lonely, anxious or annoyed. But by giving in to them, you'll only perpetuate self-loathing.
The Solution: Exercise to boost your selfesteem. Use mindfulness skills to regard food as sustenance, not a reward.
3) THE DIET JUNKIE: Whether it's Atkins or Dukan, you try every new diet. Not bothered by nutritional content, you view food (or the lack of it) as the only vehicle to weight loss so you're constantly diet-hopping.
The Problem: The lack of nutrients in your diet puts your body in 'protective mode' holding on to every last ounce of fat, leaving you feeling dissatisfied and guilty.
The Solution: Stop thinking extreme dieting will help you achieve physical perfection. Switch to a balanced diet and eat smaller portions.
4) THE BINGER: You have steely willpower and eat healthy food 90 per cent of the time, but can swing from extreme control to a moment of madness with high-sugar binges.
The Problem: Binges derail all your good intentions and can have an addictive effect. This style of eating comes with emotional baggage, often including strong feelings of guilt and shame.
The Solution: Relax your strict rules and allow yourself regular treats of 'forbidden' foods to stop the desire for massive binges.
5) THE ZOMBIE: You eat out of habit and routine, barely conscious of what you eat. Your diet is likely to be monotonous.
The Problem: You're likely to eat highly processed, refined foods that lack nutritional value but are a quick fix.
The Solution: Stop eating in front of the TV or at your desk. Eat good food and savour every mouthful.
6) THE COMFORT EATER: You eat for emotional reasons, using food to fill a void or distract yourself from painful feelings.
The Problem: You're out of touch with your hunger signals. You deny yourself good, healthy balanced meals at the expense of processed and calorific foods.
The Solution: Mindfulness exercises (such as pausing for 10 seconds before you eat anything) will help you to curb the habit of overeating.
7) THE LAZY EATER: You eat only for convenience when it suits you and your schedule. Food to you is a total annoyance and you find meals keep you from doing other more productive things.
The Problem: You've lost the enjoyment and purpose of taking the time for yourself to enjoy sustenance. You consider a balanced meal more trouble than it's worth.
The Solution: Take the time to enjoy at least two small meals throughout the day. Eat what you love that is healthy and full of nutrients. Take joy in the little things that come with feeding yourself.