When the going gets tough, the tough often head to the kitchen. That’s because food can comfort, distract and, in some cases, actually soothe. Chocolate, for instance, can release tiny amounts of mood-elevating substances into your bloodstream, helping you feel better. But as anyone who’s ever reached for a cookie in a crisis knows, eating out of stress can pack on the pounds.
Don’t let your feelings get the best of you. Try these five tips to lick emotional eating for good:
- Look for comfort beyond the cupboard. Instead of grabbing a candy bar in troubled times, try reading, calling a friend or taking a walk. With a little time to unwind and de-stress, you may feel you don’t need that candy after all.
- Ride out cravings. When you feel like you’ve just got to have that chocolate, resist the urge; cravings often pass in a matter of minutes.
- Practice damage control. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthier snacks and treats like low-fat ice cream, sugar-free chocolate pudding, fresh fruit and whole-grain crackers. If you normally reach for something salty and crunchy when you’re upset, try popcorn instead of chips.
- Avoid your triggers. Does your mom’s daily 3 p.m. call set you off? Let the call go to voice mail occasionally. Or talk to her in the morning, when you may be feeling fresher and more resilient.
- Take care of yourself. Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. These healthy lifestyle habits can help improve your ability to handle stress and make you less likely to succumb to emotional eating.
If your emotions cause you to overindulge, don’t give up your healthy ways completely. Learn from the experience, forgive yourself and start again the next day.