Overcoming emotional eating can seem overwhelming at the beginning, and setbacks can be expected. But the good news is, there are lifestyle choices that you can make to help overcome this problem.

The key word is choice – you can choose to follow a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes it helps to break things down into small, specific steps you can take (just trying to lead a “healthier lifestyle” is a bit vague!). Following are some of these specifics. And remember, setbacks and relapses are not unusual. Don’t beat yourself up; just start fresh tomorrow.

Exercise

Experts are in general agreement that regular exercise three to five days a week is most beneficial. This exercise should consist of at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (such as vigorous walking, jogging, biking, etc.) followed by some light toning or weight training. Committing to this regimen full-force is not necessarily the best way to go; if you can only exercise once or twice a week, that’s still better than nothing and will hopefully pave the way for more in the future.

Exercise is said to relieve emotional overeating in several ways. For one, exercise produces endorphins which are the body’s natural “feel good” hormones. For another, exercise prevents boredom and mindless eating, which is what you might be doing if you weren’t exercising! And finally, exercise will likely boost your self-image, helping to break the cycle of low self-esteem and poor self-image that “feeds” emotional overeating disorder.

Nature

Never underestimate the healing power of nature! For those with emotional overeating disorder, choosing to spend more time out in nature can be particularly beneficial. After all, in the natural realm there are no media messages to mess with your self-image, and being in nature connects you to your origins and the origins of food.

Alternative stress relief

If you overeat in response to stress, it makes sense to find alternative ways to relieve and manage that stress. Meditation, Yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and other regular forms of exercise and relaxation techniques can help alleviate the stress that is triggering your overeating.

Swap goodies for goodies

Try to find substitutions for the comfort foods or food rewards you seek when you are feeling positive or negative emotions. Having something in place already is key – keep a list handy or other reminder that will prompt you to turn to the alternative rather than the candy bar. (Some alone time, a short walk, reading a magazine or book for pleasure, doing your nails, etc. are all little emotional pick-me-ups that you can implement in place of food.)

Why am I doing this?

Before eating, ask yourself why you are doing it.

Do you feel genuinely hungry? If you’re truly hungry, you may feel fatigued and, of course, feel hunger in your stomach. Ask yourself if you really feel hungry or if you are seeking an energy boost or a calming effect instead.

Lastly, Some experts theorize that detachment from food and its natural source plays a role in emotional overeating disorder. Getting involved in nature and exploring and appreciating it can go a long way toward reconnecting with our biologically normal view of food. Maybe you can kill two birds with one stone and do your regular exercise outdoors!

Now that we have taken a look at lifestyle choices and how they can affect the way we eat, let’s delve into different treatments to overcome emotional eating.

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