Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better, especially unhealthy foods high in sugar that can lead to weight gain and addiction and ultimately, to chronic illness like diabetes. Breaking this common habit requires self-awareness, which is where mindfulness comes in. Practicing mindfulness can help curb emotional eating triggered by stress, anxiety, sadness and other negative feelings.
Mindful Eating 101
Mindful eating means paying purposeful attention to the experience of eating – sights, sounds, smells, textures, and of course tastes. It means being truly present when you eat without distraction. Follow these tips:
- Slow down and chew your food thoroughly. Don’t rush meals.
- Notice how the food looks on your plate and the aroma. Appreciate colors and textures.
- Turn off TVs and put down phones and tablets while eating. Avoid multitasking.
- Check in periodically with your internal hunger/fullness cues. Stop when you feel satisfied, not overly full.
- Identify when cravings or emotions drive your eating rather than physical hunger.
Using Mindfulness to Prevent Emotional Eating
Whenever an urge to eat for emotional reasons strikes, mindfulness can help you pause and make a wise choice. Here’s how:
- Take a few deep breaths to calm your stress response. This buys you time before giving in.
- Ask yourself “Am I truly hungry or is my emotion looking for comfort?” Identify the trigger.
- Notice if it’s a craving for something sweet and commit to finding a healthier alternative to satisfy it. Perhaps some fresh fruit will do the trick.
- Accept the emotion without judgement and let it pass like a wave. Emotions are temporary. Food numbs emotions rather than fixing them.
- Go for a short walk or try a mindfulness meditation to shift your mood. Movement and stillness both help.
- Call a friend or write in a journal to process what you’re feeling instead of turning to food.
Consistent mindfulness trains your brain to pause and make conscious choices around food. By developing awareness of emotional triggers and cravings, you gain control over eating habits for healthier, sustainable change.
Do you find it hard to practice mindfulness as you eat? I’m happy to help.
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