Last week in one of our brainstorming sessions I got the question, “what do you do with long-term emotional triggers that send you to food.” During the week many discussions were had regarding short-term coping mechanisms for dealing with emotions that lead us to eat. Her question seemed to imply that most triggers to eat are occasional and unexpected, i.e. a stressor occurs at work, you crave food, you eat it and feel less stressed, the end.
I feel that emotional eating is more long-term or chronic. If my job is stressful, it’s probably stressful most days. If boredom is a trigger for me to eat, it probably happens most nights, not just once in a blue moon.
If emotional triggers linger for days, weeks, months, then I think it’s a good idea to be proactive. Plan alternatives to food and maybe even practice those coping responses when you are not at your breaking point and completely focused on the thought of eating. For example, if my work days are insanely stressful and I’d like to avoid turning to food, I might proactively plan to do these things:
- mid-morning take a 10-minute break to step outside for some fresh air
- mid-afternoon while doing some mindless work, listen to my favorite music at the same time
- after my workshift, set aside 30 minutes of “transition time” to wind down by reading some fiction outside on my porch or going for a 30 minute walk with the dog while listening to a favorite podcast, before dealing with any home-life stressors
If these are part of my regular routine, there’s 3 different events I get to look forward to each day. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know I’ll be able to reduce my stress levels that day because I was proactive and planned stress reducers. Now there’s less of a need to soothe myself with food while I work straight through the entire day with nothing to look forward to but the 5:00 whistle.
Are you proactive in dealing with emotional eating urges? What are your strategies?