Dear Dietitian – Preventing emotional eating

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Published Friday, April 3, 2020
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

Dear Readers: These are uncertain times, and if you're like me, uncertainty is not one of your favorite topics. We have not yet reached the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, some people have lost their jobs, and many of the lucky ones are working from home. Times like these can trigger emotions of anxiety and grief, and when we are experiencing difficult feelings, we may try to push those feelings down with extra food. You've heard of it, maybe participated in it; it's called emotional eating.

These are ways to help prevent overeating during stressful times:

  1. Keep your eating times structured: three meals a day and planned snacks (if part of your routine).
  2. Plan meals ahead of time. Most things in life run more smoothly with a plan.
  3. Keep a food journal. Write down the everything you eat. This will help you identify trouble areas.
  4. Drink lots of water or non-caffeinated beverages.
  5. Pay attention to your body's signals. Know when you are physically hungry and stop eating when you are full.
  6. Eat nutritious foods. The simplest way to do this is to follow the five-a-day rule: eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Limit fried foods and sweets. When your body is nourished, you are less likely to reach for junk food.
  7. Avoid mindless eating. This may occur in front of the tv or computer or while reading a book. In this situation, you are likely to consume more calories than you realize.
  8. Avoid eating while cooking and during clean-up. Keep your mouth busy with a piece of sugarless gum during these times to prevent nibbling.
  9. Exercise.
  10. Find effective ways of dealing with stress. Try yoga, meditation, or journaling.
  11. If you have tried the above and the cupboards are still calling your name, find a healthy distraction. Paint, go for a walk, clean a closet, read a book, call a friend, or reconcile your checkbook.
  12. If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive and forget because beating up on yourself only makes things worse. You can start fresh the next day, or as I like to say, "When you fall off the horse, get back in the saddle."

Finally, ask yourself if you have a food compulsion/addiction. This occurs when there is a strong urge to eat a certain food, and when you start, it is difficult to stop. You may feel out of control. If this is the case, it is better to avoid that food altogether. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Until next time, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at deardietitian411@gmail.com. Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.

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