At some point, we have all had an emotional trigger that leads to an eating frenzy of not-so-healthy food. The link between feelings and what we choose to eat is very deep rooted.
Promotion at work? Celebrate by going out to eat.
It’s your birthday? Indulge in your favorite foods.
Had a bad day? Bury yourself in comfort foods.
Tired? Reach for whatever is ready, fast and easy.
If you know your emotions lead you to foods that sabotage your health, you are already one step ahead. The next part is figuring out how to make the connection between how you feel and how you cope work in your favor. As a mom, I know my most vulnerable time is right after the kids are asleep and I have a minute to myself in the evenings. It’s an easy time to do a lot of mindless damage.
When I feel like reaching for comfort food, here are a couple things that help me cut the ties between my heart strings and my stomach:
1) Exercise. I’m not saying run a 10K. I’m saying–do ENOUGH to raise endorphins, your own internal feel-good chemicals. Go for a quick walk, put in an exercise video, use an on-demand fitness show. Get a stationary bike and pedal while watching your favorite show.
2) Get online, read a book, play a game that you enjoy. Activities that occupy your hands. When you want to eat unhealthy, pull out those playing cards. Solitaire anyone?
3) Have a hot cup of tea. Something warm to hold in your hands and sip slowly. It says RELAX all over it. Bonus? Lots of antioxidants in red, black, white and green teas.
4) Chew a piece of sugar free gum. Before you get upset that I’m recommending an artificially sweetened gum, I say this to spare your teeth. Sometimes this little bit of sweet can be satisfying enough to get you through the immediate food urges. Don’t want to do even a little artificial sweetener? I respect and appreciate that. A small hard candy, small lollipop or 1 square of dark chocolate can work too for around 30 cal. As long as you stop there. If you can’t this strategy may not work for you.
5) Call a friend (or talk to your spouse/partner). It takes a strong person to reach out for help and if you explain to your support person what your goals are in advance, there is a level of accountability to them. You can even talk to your kids if they are old enough and ask them to support you. “Mommy wants to get healthy and I need your help. After school ask me to play tag (or soccer or ___) at the park/in the backyard.” They’ll love being a part of your success and you are teaching them how to cope with emotions, as well.
6) Brush your teeth. This may sound weird but if your teeth are already clean, it may be a deterrent to eating more. Works well at night
7) Karaoke. Get a machine for your house for $50. Throw in a CD and start jamming. Can’t put food in your mouth when you are singing. Ok, this is a bit unconventional but it absolutely works for me. And I’m pretty sure everyone else in the house loves my singing too. Right guys?? <insert crickets chirping here>
8) Reward yourself with non-food treats. Clothes? New running shoes, sunglasses? Perfume? Movie tickets? Go to a museum? Massage? At home mani/pedi?
9) Don’t keep unhealthy foods within reach. If that go-to comfort food is in the house or your desk drawer, there are very few people who can resist it when their emotions catch up with them. Combining the decision to eat something not-so-healthy with having to get up and leave your house to get it may make you reconsider.
Bottom Line: When you feel calm and relaxed, make a ‘go-to’ list that is unique to you. Post it everywhere you need it. In the office, at home, on the fridge, on the pantry, by the TV… and refer to it. In a moment of weakness, you can rely on it to be the level-headed you.