When you are looking for help to stop emotional eating, realize you can respond to upset or distress by mindlessly eating. Or the eating can become habituated without you realizing it. If you find yourself sitting in your favorite chair with the remote and you are prompted to get the food, hungry or not, it’s a habit.
Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” discusses how to recognize and get to know your habits and the cues that prompt them. He says:
Every habit has a cue, and experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:
- Emotional State
- Other People
- Immediately preceding action
So, if you’re trying to figure out the cue for the ‘going to the cafeteria and buying a chocolate chip cookie’ habit, you write down five things the moment the urge hits (these are my actual notes from when I was trying to diagnose my habit):
- Where are you? (sitting at my desk)
- What time is it? (3:36 pm)
- What’s your emotional state? (bored)
- Who else is around? (no one)
- What action preceded the urge? (answered an email)
After just a few days, it was pretty clear which cue was triggering my cookie habit — I felt an urge to get a snack at a certain time of day. The habit, I had figured out, was triggered between 3:00 and 4:00.
So looking at your habits and learning about your patterns can allow you to get to know them. By moving from mindless eating to curiosity you can gather information and start the process of awareness.
What place(s) prompt you to eat habitually? Do you know when that behavior started?