Emo Eater Rehab

An acquaintance of mine, whom I know through one of the many social networks to which I belong, posted today that she was struggling with emotional eating. I can totally relate.

For as long as I can remember, food has been a constant companion. Ben & Jerry know exactly how to cure a heartache, the Planter’s peanut guy can drag you from the depths of boredom and stress doesn’t stand a chance with Mr. Hershey around! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come home from a particularly bad day at work and rationalized my way into a frozen pizza or sat zombie-like, eyes glazed over while watching TV with a bag of Cheetos.

I make different choices now out of necessity. Suzy doesn’t like frozen pizza all that well and cheetos, hell, she’s protesting almost before I open the bag. For me, though, it is about the behavior. I can easily replace unhealthy snacks with more healthy choice, but that doesn’t help me to break the snacking habit. Here is a list of things that help me to get through those ridiculously annoying bouts of head hunger:

  1. Drink Water. Often, thirst will masquerade itself as hunger. I grab a bottle of water and sip over a half hour.
  2. Change of scenery/activity. If I’m at the computer, I might move into the living room to read for a little bit. I’ll go downstairs and prepare my clothes for the next day. Sometimes, even going to the kitchen to do some prep work for the next day’s meals helps. I’ve learned that the act of preparing foods is as satisfying as actually eating.
  3. Journaling. I’m getting better about recognizing when my “hunger” is caused by stress or sadness or anger or even happiness, and when that happens, I start writing. Addressing my trigger issues, even if it is just between me and a sheet of paper, has been a huge help.
  4. Exercise. I’m learning to love exercise lately. It is a convenient coincidence that Sis and I usually go to work out right around the time my head hunger kicks in. It is damn hard to shove food in my mouth when there is a dumbbell in my hand. I do allow myself a post-workout snack of either string cheese or 100 calorie chocolate milk, though.
  5. Know your substitutions. I usually only have strong cravings for chocolate about once a month (go figure). A friend suggested coffee. Sure enough, a good cup of hot coffee totally erases my need for chocolate. Hot tea works for just about any other “specific” craving.
  6. No eating after dinner. Did I eat dinner? Yes. Has it been more than five hours since dinner? No. Did I have a protein-dense meal? Yes. Then I’m not hungry. End of story. After dinner, I only allow myself clear liquids. There is a built in cheat to this though, as sugar-free popsicles and sugar-free jello count as clear liquids according to my dietitian. But, these don’t really help with my desire to change my snacking behaviors, so I only allow myself to indulge in one of those items if I’ve tried items 1-4 for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. When all else fails, pick protein. And eat slowly. Protein helps me to feel full longer and eating slowly helps me to feel full faster. I also don’t snack while I’m doing anything else. That means I choose what I’m going to have, sit down at the table and focus only on that until it is gone. And then I go about my business.

These aren’t foolproof, and I won’t dare pretend that I am 100% perfect all the time. But, they are the guidelines that are helping me to change my behaviors. Maybe one or more of them will work for you, too.

  1. Just found your blog on a mutual blogroll. I’ll be checking you out. 🙂

    I suck at substitutions! When you find one for cake, please let me know.

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