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Curb Emotional Eating

Embrace a whole food diet

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Curb Emotional Eating

After a stressful day, you plunk yourself in front of the TV with a bag of chips. Turn to satisfying whole foods rather than a temporary emotional eating fix.

After a stressful day, you plunk yourself in front of the TV with a bag of chips. Turn to satisfying whole foods rather than a temporary emotional eating fix. 

Food is like any other chemical in our body—it causes a reaction. The refined sugary foods we crave such as candy, pastry, and white bread cause an increase in serotonin production in the brain that makes us feel calm.

Foods that are high in fat and sugar, such as ice cream and chocolate, increase endorphin production in the brain. These natural painkillers make us feel relaxed and, at times, almost euphoric. Chemistry influences our desire to eat chocolate during a tough afternoon at the office, or dive into some popcorn on a lonely night.

Food affects mood

Sugars and fats make us feel good. But these emotional fixes don’t last long. Eventually, we require more of these foods to achieve the same result. Food can be an addictive substance. And eating more to help soothe our emotions can lead to weight problems.

Emotional eating may sabotage our weight loss efforts. When emotions drive hunger, the result is often overeating; we especially indulge in high calorie, sweet, fatty foods. With a better understanding of food and its connection to mood, we can learn to control our eating to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Stop to reflect

Food and emotions are connected. When you find yourself eating and you know you’re not hungry, ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” By taking a minute to stop and think about our emotions, we can use them to better steer our way around the kitchen or, perhaps, out of the kitchen.

Redirect emotions

If emotions have us running to the kitchen for a sugary snack, it’s time to take a detour. Many emotional states that may drive our eating can be alleviated with other activities.

Sadness may be better handled by participating in a favourite pastime that can lift our mood such as taking a walk, gardening, or calling a friend.

Boredom can be alleviated by playing a card game, reading a good book, or doing a craft.

Stress can be worked off with a physical activity such as yoga, tennis, or running, or more calmly subdued by spending quality time with a pet.

Eat whole foods

Eating is the primary way to nourish our bodies. We all know people who are so caught up with following the “perfect” diet that they spend more time thinking and stressing about food than they do enjoying life. If this sounds like you, relax.

Choose guilt-free whole foods that offer nutrition without additional calories or unhealthy ingredients. A whole food diet focuses on plants. Increasing scientific consensus supports eating more plant foods and less animal foods to promote health. Whole foods are packed with nutrients to boost our mood and energy level.

Feel-good foods

Next time your taste buds have a hankering for something flavourful and your emotions crave an endorphin and serotonin boost, reach for a delicious whole food that can satisfy both. Try one of these whole foods—they really can make you feel good.

Papaya
The health of our gut can affect our mood. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain that helps digest foods, eliminating the fatigue and irritability caused by sluggish digestion. Also, papaya is packed with fibre to help keep the digestive system moving.

Avocado
Creamy and luxurious, an avocado can be a healthy yet satisfying option when our emotions lead us to crave fatty foods. There are 20 g of healthy monounsaturated fats in one average size avocado. Fats play an important role in helping the body absorb vitamins.

In a small study conducted by Iowa State University researchers, subjects who ate a salad with fat-free dressing didn’t absorb any carotenoids from the vegetables in the salad. Those who topped their salad with full-fat dressing substantially increased their absorption of these important compounds that act as antioxidants.

Brown rice
Brown rice is packed with fibre that keeps the digestive system happy. This whole food is also a source of magnesium, an important mood-enhancing mineral. Depression can result from a magnesium deficiency. Brown rice also contains a wide variety of B vitamins, including niacin, a coenzyme needed for energy production.

Salmon
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to healthy brain cells. Researchers have found that including omega-3 fatty acids in the diets of people suffering from depression can have positive effects on their mood. Protein also boosts dopamine levels in the brain, increasing alertness and improving concentration.

Are you an emotional eater?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be eating for emotional reasons.

  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
  • Do you eat in secret?
  • Do you eat when you feel sad, angry, anxious, or lonely?
  • Do you ever feel as if your eating is out of control?

Tip the scale in your favour

  • Eat plenty of fibre to help you feel full.
  • Eat quality proteins such as fish, nuts, and seeds.
  • Drink water before reaching for food; you may just be thirsty.
  • Don’t keep high-calorie processed foods in your home.
  • Shop for food when your emotions are under control.

Guilt-free treats

When you crave a sweet treat, try a healthy alternative instead.

When you craveSubstitute
ice creamfrozen yogourt with a few berries or tiramisu yogourt with a sprinkle of pure cocoa powder
potato chipswhole grain crackers or dry whole grain cereal
jelly beansdried fruit
chocolate barpiece of dark chocolate
peanut butter cupsliced banana with nut butter
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