You’ve heard of “eating your feelings,” right? I’m gonna use it today as a blanket way to describe eating for a reason other than hunger—including emotional distress, boredom and fatigue. If you think of yourself as an “emotional eater” or if you know already that you eat for reasons other than physical hunger, here are three things you can try to help curb this behavior:
- Drink some water. I’m probably not the first person to suggest this to you—and I know I’m not the first one to suggest it online—but sometimes things are clichés for a reason. In this case, the reason is that water both fills you up and gives you a lot of the interaction of eating that you might be looking for. Get up, make yourself a nice glass of water—maybe fancy, sparkling water with a wedge of lime and a sprig of mint; maybe water infused with fresh fruit, mint and/or cucumber—and start there. Have a little moment with your water. Enjoy the process of preparing it like it’s a luxury. Stand in a ray of sunshine while you take your first sips. At the end of the water, there’s a very good chance that the impulse to eat will be satisfied.
- Chew some gum. Gum sweetened with Xylitol, a natural sweetener, has very few calories and will give you a release for tension and a way to work your jaw without swallowing bites of food. This can be a good stress reliever, and it can give you the same oral gratification as chewing food.
- Take a walk. Go outside. Walk the dog. Take a blanket to the beach or the park and relax for a bit. Hop on the treadmill for 15 minutes. I’m not advocating something sweaty or intense here—just a little break from whatever is causing the impulse to eat when you aren’t hungry. Generate some mood-lifting endorphins and absorb a little vitamin D from the sun.
If I were you, I would try one or more of these things before reaching for a snack any time I suspected that my impulse to eat was coming from anywhere other than physical hunger. If none of these tricks work, try:
- taking a quick nap if you’re eating to stay awake
- keeping low-guilt snacks on hand for when the tricks don’t work (like blueberries, almonds, watermelon or jicama)
- phoning a friend who can listen to what’s troubling you until the urge passes.
These tips aren’t meant to cure all ills. I don’t want to give the impression that I think these simple things will work in every situation or for every person, but sometimes just trying the simple things first is enough to do the trick once. And if you have success enough “onces” in a row, you’ve developed a pattern of success.
Want something more personalized, or need someone to reliably be on the receiving end of that “phone a friend” call? I’m here for you.