When I was in college I had a lot on my mind. Looking back, it seems like I was worried about just about everything in my life. So, every morning, over-stressed and sleep deprived, I would order a cup of coffee and a huge cinnamon bun, dripping with icing. I would devour my 800-calorie “breakfast” in less than five minutes. Honestly, it was almost an addiction.
The problem is that this kind of emotional eating creates a negative spiral.
The more stressed out we are, the more we eat. The more we eat, the worse we look and feel. The worse we look and feel, the more stressed out we become. I can’t think of a more destructive pattern. Unfortunately, it’s a pattern that far too many women, including myself, are familiar with.
If you want to know how to stop emotional eating, it makes sense to start with your mindset. Can you think of the triggers that cause you to reach for that donut? For many women, the most common triggers are a lack of sleep, stress and a lack of fulfilment in our lives. Let’s look at each of these one at a time.
One trigger that affects many women is exhaustion. In a 2012 study, researchers at Columbia University found that when subjects were sleep-deprived, just seeing a picture of unhealthy foods activated the “reward centres” in their brains.
Why do we crave cake and not carrots (unless they’re in carrot cake?) The answer is simple. According to an MIT study, our brain knows that carbohydrates generate chemical reactions that boost serotonin (the feel good hormone) and carrots don’t.
Another eating trigger for women over 60 is stress. It is no secret that we eat more when we are under pressure. This is because makes our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which makes you think you’re starving. When we were cave men and women, this response made sense. But, our ancestors lived in a relatively donut-free environment, unlike us.
Using meditation or exercise to reduce your stress may not trick your brain into mistaking broccoli for chocolate, but, it may stop you from reaching for another cookie out of habit.
In his book “What Are You Hungry For? The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul,” Deepak Chopra discusses how overeating is really just a symptom of an inability to find true fulfillment in our lives. The truth is that emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. You need to nourish yourself emotionally in ways that tell your brain it doesn’t have to switch on the cravings.
When do you tend to get strong food cravings? How do you stop emotional eating in your life? Do you think it is ok to have the occasional splurge? Please join the conversation.