Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Emotional Eating
With spending so many hours inside, it can be so easy to seek comfort in food. Especially when some of us have enormous stock piles of tasty snacks and quick shelf stable carbohydrates like cereal, pasta and rice. Perhaps emotional eating is a new phenomena or we’ve struggled over the years with binge eating. Binge-eating is defined as consuming unusually large amounts of food typically in a short period of time and feeling unable to stop eating. During these stressful times we want to maintain emotional, mental and physical balance. Ensuring that we are getting the right nutrients without the self harm of overeating is also vital to our immune system and sleep.
I hope these strategies will help you get off the emotional eating roller coaster for good and find renewed peace around food and body.
Make Real Balanced Meals a Priority
Like it or not we have to eat. By scheduling healthy balanced breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, we ensure that our bodies will get what they need. Most importantly, prioritizing meals keeps us satiated. Skipping meals or choosing foods that are not necessarily nourishing can leave us hungry making it easier to binge later.
Our bodies crave routine and balance. By setting specific times of day to eat meals that have names like “breakfast,” “lunch” and “dinner” ensures that we are attuned to our appropriate hunger cues. As a result we will not fall into the trap of misinterpreting boredom, frustration or thirst for hunger. Similarly chips, crackers, pretzels, cookies and unfortunately nuts, seeds and dried fruit can be overeating triggers for some of us. When emotions strike, we can find ourselves easily binging on them. One simple strategy in binge prevention is to not have these foods in our house at all. If we live with others, who enjoy these foods safely in moderation, we might need to have them not eat them in front of us or keep them in their room. Studies show that the mere sight of food can cause us to eat even if we are not hungry.
Pacify the Craving Part of Our Brain
Ever wonder where craving comes from? We can thank the insula, which is a prune-size slab of brain tissue responsible for feelings of guilt and anxiety as well as cravings. Acting like a sort of receiving zone, the insula assesses the physiological state of the entire body and then generates subjective feelings to bring about actions, like eating. Information from the insula is sent to other parts of the brain involved in decision making. Studies on nicotine, cocaine and alcohol addiction have shown alterations in the insula and its connectivity to other regions of the brain of addicts. This allows the addict to succumb to the craving despite the negative consequences.
Though it might be tempting to consider having the insula surgically removed to stop our craving for chocolate cake, it’s not a solution. Without the insula, we would have complete apathy and would loose our ability to distinguish between fresh and rotten foods. Probably one of the most effective ways for calming the insula is through daily meditation. Through daily meditation, we enhance our self-regulatory processes and decrease our emotional reactivity. As a result, we can start to see our thoughts about food as a neutral behavioral option rather than an inescapable need.
Spontaneous thoughts do not need a behavioral response. Meditation can help us to learn to accept these thoughts, letting them pass without further elaboration. With a consistent daily meditation practice of even as little as 5-10 minutes, we will experience more control over our cravings overtime.
Carbohydrates as Antidepressants?
Have you ever felt like you were wired to binge of chips, bread or sweets? Well, guess what. We are. First, our brains are fueled on glucose. Our brains seek out simple carbs for quick glucose. But for some of us, another factor is also at play — serotonin.