What are the Triggers?

Try to identify which emotions can make you turn to food. It could be anger or sadness, or even a lack of emotion (boredom). Being self-aware like this does take courage, you don’t have to like the emotions, but you can start to understand and deal with them.

Anger angryface Being angry or frustrated without talking about it can lead to emotional eating. Tell someone you’re angry when you’re feeling calm and collected. This can release the feelings that drive the unhelpful eating.
Celebration happyface Food is a common treat when celebrating, and this isn’t helpful when its too often. Reward youself instead with e.g. a book, music, a film or make-up. For big celebrations treat youself to an experience that you’ve always wanted instead.
Sadness/grief sadface Comfort eating can be a problem especially if when feelings last for a long time. Talk to a friend, it will help, or other ways to healthily deal with the emotions.
Boredom boredface Looking for food when bored is very common. We interpret any ‘lack’ as being for food. But it may be for company, rest or a challenge. Ask yourself “What am I hungry for?” – even put this note on your fridge. Try to fulfil the real hunger in your life to remove the desire for satisfaction from food.

What can you do?

  • 10 minute rule

Are you really hungry? Are you perhaps just bored and using food as a distraction from something? Get involved in another activity for 10 minutes, then check your cravings again. Sometimes hunger pangs can just be a desire to taste or chew something rather than actual stomach hunger.

Keeping busy is key – take a bath, exercise, take up a craft/hobby.  It’s hard to eat during these activities, which will help you cope with cravings and let them go.

  • What’s in your cupboards

Only buy small, single-portions of your usual emo foods.  Remove any larger or multi-packs from sight – give them away, take them into work for your colleagues, etc.  With less temptation around, it will be much easier to do something else.

  • A “day off”

Don’t strictly diet! Thinking you ‘can’t’ have something makes you want it more. Treat yourself once a week with a cheat meal (see begunutrition), be careful not to binge! Try to limit sugars and refined carbs.

  • Count your treats

If you really want a treat, include it in your daily calorie intake. Reduce the carbs in your day if you have a small chocolate bar. Don’t do this every day but it can prevent cravings getting worse

  • Think while you chew

Eating slowly, focus on the chewing, this will give your body more time to recognise that it is getting full. Some of us take longer to respond to this, so don’t be impatient and eat too quickly. Try eating whilst sitting down and enjoy the break and experience. Eating on the move will encourage you to eat too quickly, and often too much because of it. Also food is much more satisfying this way.

  • Healthy alternatives?

Sometimes, it’s tastes or textures that you might be craving:

  • Chocolate – Replace with cocoa (not drinking chocolate) and add minimum sugar or, make some home-made chocolate porridge, using cocoa powder, plain oats and milk.  Even with an added teaspoon of sugar, it will be way less than a chocolate bar.
  • Salt – Salty foods can be craved when stressed.  Try salty peanuts, drink a cup of Bovril or Marmite instead of crisps.
  • Crunchiness – Keep prepared vegetables handy – carrot sticks, celery etc if its the ‘crunch’ that you desire.  You’ll be surprised at how well that can satisfy instead of crisps. Plus crunchy veg takes more time to chew, and their fibre makes your body work harder to digest them—so you’ll burn more calories during your meal.
  • Sweet/Ice cream – For that cold ice-cream sensation, make fruit-only ice cream instead: freeze a banana (in halves) and when you want ice cream take out half a banana, leave for a 2 minutes until you can just cut it, blend up with a few berries at high speed for a really short time.  Hey Presto! A very healthy and tasty ice cream substitute.

IMG_6510Ann has 8 years experience of working in the area of behavioural change, and in the field of nutrition for 5 years.