Are you an emotional eater?

Guest post by Samantha Bailey, nutritionist and registered dietitian.

It can be really easy to take in lots of extra calories, almost without realising you’re doing it if your desire to eat isn’t based on how hungry you are but on how you feel. Although it’s become a bit of a joke in films and books, that when women re upset they eat tubs of ice cream Bridget Jones style, it can be anything but funny if you’re trying to protect your wellbeing by getting to, or maintaining a healthy weight with PCOS. So how can you get out of the habit of choosing to binge and booze based on your emotional state? Start simple with these four steps…

Step 1: Delay

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Before you reach for a snack, stop for a moment and notice how you’re feeling – are you angry, tired, stressed, low? Is this what’s driving your desire for food or are you physically hungry? Try giving yourself another 10 minutes before considering whether you really need the snack. Often the desire will pass. Many people mix up thirst and hunger signals – if you feel hungry, try having a low-calorie drink first. If you still feel hungry 10 minutes after you drink choose a healthy snack such as fruit or low-calorie yoghurt to get you through until your next meal.

Step 2: Distract yourself

If you know you eat when you’re emotional, try planning for the next time you feel stressed or low, and try to put in place a treat that isn’t food-related – such as a bath and your favourite magazine, a chat with a good friend, or watching your favourite show that makes you laugh. If you think boredom sometimes drives you to snack, try to distract yourself by giving yourself a mini treatment such as a pedicure or manicure, paint your nails or apply a face mask. A little self-nurturing can be really helpful in bringing up your mood too. You may find that some distraction is needed to break an eating habit. If you reach for crisps or sweet snacks at the end of a workday or always have a snack at the end of a stressful meeting or situation, try to change your routine. You may be able to come up with ideas such as doing some meditation and deep breathing exercises or simply finding a healthier version of your go-to snack. You may be able to form some new habits such as walking the dog as soon as you finish work or meeting a friend for a walk at lunchtime.

Step 3: Desire rate

It is helpful to write down all the pros and cons of having a healthy diet and being a healthy body weight. If you want to lose weight then write down the reasons and stick these somewhere as a reminder, for example inside a cupboard or wardrobe door. If you find yourself tempted to have an extra snack, take a moment to think about how much you really want that snack on a scale of 1 to 10. How does this desire compare to how much you want to reach your next goal? Visualise the reasons you wrote down. Is the snack worth it? You’ll find that sometimes it is and often it is not.


Step 4: Go for the combination

Sometimes you can use a combination of all three of these techniques. For example… want to snack – do I really need a snack? Do I really want a snack? Maybe I will go off and do something first then see if I still want something…maybe I will have a nice drink and actually it is not long until my next meal…

Ask for help

Remember, if you’re struggling with your weight, your GP may be able to refer you to a dietitian or a weight management clinic at a local hospital.

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