Week 5: Day 2

2021 Wellness Program “The Beauty Chef”

Emotional Eating

Understanding the science behind nutrition is what helps you to understand why fad diets and quick weight loss plans simply don’t work. So having this knowledge is great, and along the way we have given you tips for putting this knowledge into practice.

Losing weight or changing your lifestyle is a process that takes place over time as you take slow, deliberate steps to get to your goal. Along the way there are likely to be situations that sideline your progress or make it more difficult to stay on track. Emotional eating, dealing with social settings or just plain staying motivated are examples of situations that can get in the way of progress. Your next few lessons are going to cover some of these more challenging issues, and how you can deal with them.

Before we get started with this, please check in with where you are at right now with your goals and plans:

  1. What lifestyle habits or goal did you practice over this past week?
  2. On a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most) how well were you able to achieve your lifestyle habits or goals?
  3. What did you have the most success with?
  4. What did you have the least success with?
  5. What can you do differently this week to make your less successful goal happen?

What is Emotional Eating?

It’s a fact: most of us don’t simply eat just to satisfy physical hunger. We have many other reasons why we eat: a special occasion, something (like a TV commercial) cues us to eat; a food looks particularly appealing, etc. When you think about your own situation each and every time you eat, you may recall many times that you were not physically hungry when you ate. Sometimes we turn to food to satisfy other needs besides physical hunger: for comfort, to relieve stress or to reward ourselves in some way. When the reason for eating is tied to a particular emotion (or emotions), it is called emotional eating.

The problem with emotional eating is that if it happens often, we are left with lots of extra calories and guilt afterwards. The eating may provide temporary relief, however the emotional issue is still there once the eating is over. When the feelings and emotions return, a cycle of turning to food and overeating will happen repeatedly. Unfortunately this is exactly the way some people gain excess weight. Over time the weight gain, guilt, and possible health consequences actually make a person feel worse. In order to stop the cycle of emotional eating, you must learn to recognize what triggers the eating behavior, and find ways to change the habits that have gotten in the way of healthy eating behavior.

One way to approach the difficulty of eating that is driven by emotions is to learn to become non-judgmental about your choices. When you examine your behavior without judgment, you can get to the source of the behavior and possibly alternative actions to emotional eating.

Refrain from tagging yourself as an emotional eater. Instead of defining yourself by your actions, think in terms of an objective description of the behavior itself. Why is this important? Well, when you label yourself as an “emotional eater”, this defines who you are and what you do. Your label as an emotional eater, in essence encourages you to continue the behavior because that is “what you do.” It may be more helpful to objectively describe the behavior in a different way, such as,

I am:

  • Eating because I feel stressed
  • Eating because I feel bored
  • Using food for comfort
  • Eating for emotional reasons

Can you see how that changes things?

The statement shifts from a negative label about you to a description of a behavior. This enables you to move forward in a more positive way, rather than beating yourself up!


Learn to Recognize Emotional Eating

Food is connected to so many life events and situations, that it may be difficult to distinguish which situations are really emotional eating. There is nothing wrong if we use food as a reward or celebration from time to time.

Holiday times, or occasions that connect food to our family heritage are examples of foods tied to emotions. These situations may not necessarily be a problem, and are often a part of our culture or connection with the people in our lives.

When eating becomes the way you cope with problems, you enter into an unhealthy cycle of eating. The unfortunate thing is that the real problem may not be addressed for a very long time.

You can recognize emotional eating if your first impulse is to turn to food whenever you are upset, stressed, bored, or angry. Food is not the solution for these problems, although it may temporarily make you feel better. So here are a few questions to ask yourself; they may give you a clue about whether your own eating habits are strongly tied to emotions:

  • Do you tend to eat more food if you are feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat even though you are not hungry?
  • Do you keep eating, even if you feel full?
  • Do you reward yourself with food often?
  • Do you feel out of control around food?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, it may be an indication that at least some of the time you are eating for the wrong reasons. By getting a handle on the things that trigger the eating behavior, you can begin to stop the cycle of emotional eating.


Develop Emotional Understanding

One way to identify emotional triggers is to ask yourself “am I really hungry?” each time you feel like eating. If you are not experiencing the physical signs of hunger, your urge to eat was probably triggered by an emotional or environmental cue. Understand that when you eat for emotional reasons, you are trying to make yourself feel better. This is a natural tendency. By choosing not to feel guilt and shame afterward allows you come up with a better solution for next time: What might work better the next time you feel like eating for emotional reasons? Instead of an automatic reaction to a trigger, choose how you will respond instead. This may take some practice, but deciding ahead of time to practice an alternate way to respond to a trigger is the first step to changing the behavior.

Now for a little homework to you help understand and identify the emotional behaviors that you would like to change. Once you recognize the causes, you can work toward finding a solution to prevent the unwanted behavior in the future.

First, identify various times of the day that you eat.

  • I eat at the following times during the day: ___________________________________

Next, are there times of the day that you eat even if you are not hungry?

  • I tend to eat at ______________ time(s), even though I am not feeling hungry.
  • When I eat even though I am not hungry I feel:___________________________________
  • After I have eaten even though I was not hungry, I feel: ___________________________________
  • I tend to seek out food when I am: ___________________________________
  • The food I most often seek when I am (enter emotion here) ________________ is ___________________________________

Now, think of a time when you were able to go through an entire day without displaying any emotional eating behavior:

  • What was different about this day compared to other days?
  • What prevented you from reaching for food on that day?
  • What do you think are the triggers that lead you to eat for emotional reasons?
  • What is a realistic strategy that you could use to prevent you from unwanted or emotional eating?


So, are You really hungry??

To answer that question we recommend that you get in the habit of rating your hunger on a scale of zero to 10. The Hunger Scale is a tool to help you learn to listen to your body instead of your head. The premise is to eat when you feel hungry and stop when you have eaten enough. The guidelines below can help you to rate your level of hunger before you eat, and your levels of satiety (feeling satisfied) after you eat. When you mindfully practice this exercise, you will become more familiar with your eating patterns. Try it!

0- Starving! You feel like you can’t go on much longer without food.

1 – You are so hungry you want to eat whatever you can get your hands on.

2 – Any type of food looks good right now; you are very preoccupied with your hunger.

3 – You are hungry and the urge to eat is strong.

4 – You are a little hungry. You can wait a while before you eat, but you will be hungry soon.

5 – Neutral. Not hungry. Not full.

6- No longer hungry, but you could eat more.

7- Hunger is gone. Stop here and you may not be hungry again for 3-4 hours.

8- Not uncomfortable, but definitely have a feeling of a very full belly.

9 – Moving into feeling overly full and uncomfortable.

10- Very uncomfortable, maybe even painful. “Thanksgiving full.”

  1. Use the scale to rate your hunger before you eat. You goal is to eat before you enter into the red zones 0 – 2. If you wait until you are in this zone, odds are good that you will make less healthy choices and overeat because you are too hungry.
  2. Rate your feeling of fullness after you have eaten. Try stopping before you reach the red zones 8-10. When you eat until you are “stuffed”, you usually regret it afterwards, and feel very uncomfortable.
  3. The best places for your physical hunger somewhere in the green zones 3-7. Learn to eat when you are hungry, but have food before you become excessively hungry. Learn to stop when you feel satisfied, but before you become overly full.


Have the Right Stuff on Hand to Prevent Poor Food Choices

Emotional eating can take a while to overcome. You may feel as if you’re stuck in a vicious and unfair cycle. However with the right help and support, you can begin to control your eating and develop a healthy relationship with food. This relationship should be based on meeting your nutritional needs without letting your emotions take over. Much of this journey towards health and nutrition begins in your kitchen and pantry.


Before your weekly trip to the grocery store, it may be a good idea to set up a healthy home environment. Go through your fridge and pantry and identify those foods that trigger your emotional eating. This most likely includes many junk foods, fast foods, and high fat foods. Also eliminate foods that are highly processed with sweeteners, flavorings, and preservatives. Avoid buying foods that trigger emotional eating if mindfulness is your goal.

Now shift your focus to health and nutrition. Make a list of satisfying alternatives to buy that you could eat instead of the trigger foods. Having the right foods on hand will prevent poor choices when it comes to your health goals. Skip foods loaded with simple sugars and unhealthy fats like sugary breakfast cereals, donuts, cookies, ice cream, cakes, and chips. As you have learned in earlier lessons, these are rapidly absorbed by the human body and will provide you with an initial energy high followed by both a release of insulin and a crash. You will end up feeling hungrier, craving even more sugary and fatty foods. Instead choose unprocessed, healthy foods that will make you feel satisfied and energetic.

Once you have a list, you are ready to make a trip to the grocery store. Try to do your food shopping soon after eating a healthy snack or meal. If you’re not hungry, you aren’t as likely to fall prey to the impulse buys cleverly positioned by many grocery stores. Take a deep breath and stay mindful. Slow down and appreciate all the colors, smells, and feel of the produce. Shop this department extensively and then become selective in the products you buy. Stick to your list and read labels. If a food is made of ingredients that you cannot pronounce, it may be best not to place it in your cart.

Smart choices include fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. These will all provide you with slow, sustained releases of energy. If you do crave something sweet, opt for your favorite seasonal fruits like apples, blueberries, or pears.

Structure your list around your meals and stick to it, but be realistic about your food choices. Don’t deprive yourself – going “cold turkey” on your favorite foods won’t and shouldn’t happen overnight. It is best to decrease slowly instead of simply eliminating everything one day.

You’re more likely to overeat if you have junk food, desserts, and unhealthy snacks in the house. By clearing your fridge and cupboards of unhealthy snacks, you are removing the temptation and are already one step ahead. Replace them with fresh fruit, vegetables, and real whole food. Finally, avoid grocery shopping when hungry or upset. You can learn to nourish your body without letting your emotions get in the way, and it all begins in both your kitchen and grocery cart.


Satisfying Snacks That Are Easy to Make!

By now you should have the idea that keeping healthy snacks around is a good strategy to not only prevent overeating but also help to address emotional eating. Having the right things on hand, even if you do turn to food for comfort may save you from too many unwanted calories. We know that for some people, eating snacks prevents excessive hunger. If you start to use the Hunger Scale we discussed earlier, you just may find that those well planned snacks help to correct both the problem of overeating or emotional eating.

Don’t be tempted by those 100 calorie snack packs of crackers, cookies or salty snacks. This marketing gimmick has limited use for the person who is really hungry or turning to food for emotional reasons. The ONLY way 100 calorie packs work is if you stick to one pack! In most cases what you will find are processed foods made with refined flour that are packaged in tiny amounts. So what you get is something that is short on nutrition and satisfaction! One pack simply isn’t satisfying; therefore it’s easy to consume 2, 3, or more packs. Now your snack is no longer low in calories!

What we’re getting at here is that it’s much better to have a plan for at least a few healthy snack options that will be there for you when you need it. Here are some ideas:

  • Apple and a low fat cheese stick
  • 2 small clementine oranges & 15 almonds
  • Sweet potato and beetroot chips with match, lime and chili salt – pg. 131 “The Beauty Chef”
  • Goat cheese and melon:top 1/4 cup of European goat cheese with 1 cup of diced melon
  • Hot cinnamon apple or pear: slice 1 apple or pear into microwaveable dish, sprinkle a little cinnamon, 1 tsp. brown sugar, 1 Tb. chopped nuts and 1 tablespoon of water; cover and microwave for 1-2 minutes
  • Pierce a small potato a few times with a fork, and microwave on high for about five minutes or until soft. Top potato with 1 tablespoon of salsa and 2 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt.
  • 22 pistachios and a small bunch of grapes (around 15)
  • 1 medium apple and Laughing Cow or mini Babybel cheese
  • 5 oz. container low fat Greek yogurt with 1 Tb. chopped walnuts
  • Sliced red pepper with 3 Tb. Hummus (or carrots, cauliflower or any raw veggie) See “Raw beetroot and sprouted chickpea hummus pg. 126 “The Beauty Chef”
  • ½ whole grain English muffin with 1 oz. low fat cheese & 1 slice tomato melted
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries and ½ cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup raw celery with 1 Tb. peanut butter – try Roasted pumpkin, chili and tahini dip pg.127
  • Spiced and seeded crispbreads – pg. 119 “The Beauty Chef” with Mushroom and walnut pate – pg. 120 topped with sprouts and a dice of fresh tomato




Look carefully at the question above. Answer them honestly.

Stock your home with healthy alternatives for snacking.

Make a list of alternate activities you can do when you feel the urge for Emotional Eating.

Beverage Seminar rescheduled for Thursday at 5:45pm due to the rain storm last night. I hope you can make it!

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