Healthy Weighs

Emotional and Mindless Eating


Alexis Ratowsky, registered dietitian and Jessica Oakley, intern, team up to talk about how emotional and mindless eating can sabotage weight loss. They give tips on how to recognize and address this behavior so you can achieve success on your journey to a healthy weight.

Do you graze on food throughout the day? Do you snack often? Do you overeat or binge-eat and feel out of control when doing so? You might be a mindless eater or an emotional eater. These habits can be detrimental to weight loss and weight management efforts and are serious risk factors for poor bariatric surgery outcomes. Confronting them will help you succeed on your journey to a healthy weight.

Here, we describe ways to help address emotional and mindless eating:

HAVE A PLAN: Overeating can be a mechanism to cope with emotional distress. A psychologist or other healthcare professional can help with alternative coping mechanisms. Consider taking a walk or practice rational thinking and problem solving. If an oral fixation must be satisfied, try sipping warm water with lemon or enjoying a sugar-free popsicle.

INCREASE SELF-AWARENESS: Emotional eating can be an automatic reaction to uncontrolled negative feelings. It is important to identify and communicate your feelings. Are you feeling stressed, lonely, irritated, afraid, guilty or depressed? Recognize which emotions trigger your eating and express those emotions, rather than suppressing them.

ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS: Distractions can prevent you from recognizing hunger and fullness cues and cause overeating. Avoid eating when you are watching television or reading. Dining out or eating in social situations can also be a distraction. Prepare yourself ahead of time to be conscious of food choices and remember to chew thoroughly.

KNOW YOUR “TRIGGER FOODS:” Recognize which foods weaken your willpower to make smart food choices. Do you crave sugary/sweet foods, “comfort” foods or high fat/salty snack foods? Keep trigger foods out of your home so that you are not tempted to eat them. Recognize these foods when they appear at parties or social situations and exercise willpower by reminding yourself of the detrimental effect they can have on your health and your goals.

PROMOTE A POSITIVE SELF IMAGE: Love yourself and make caring for yourself a top priority. Set measureable, attainable goals and reward yourself with a non-food reward when you reach those goals. Some ideas include a manicure, a massage, a new book or a new article of clothing. Also, identify characteristics you find attractive about yourself, including at least one physical attribute. Do you like your eyes, your hair? Are you hard-working, caring or brave? Focus on these positive characteristics each day.

Don’t forget to utilize available support groups and the online community. Others may be able to offer suggestions or support that could be the key to your success. You may also be able to help someone on their journey to healthy weight management!

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