Many people use food to cheer themselves up when they’re under stress or having a bad day. Enjoying comfort foods like pizza and ice cream isn’t necessarily bad when done in moderation, but can be detrimental to your health and weight-loss efforts when it becomes a regular habit. Indulging in comfort foods to relieve feelings of stress, sadness, and anxiety is also known as emotional eating; for sustained weight-loss and improved health, it’s important to learn to replace emotional eating with healthier activities that won’t affect your waistline.
Do you frequently use comfort foods to boost your mood? Follow these tips to avoid emotional eating and benefit from improved health in the process!
Track when you comfort-eat
Start keeping track of times you feel the need for comfort foods. This helps you determine the underlying cause behind why you need comfort foods to boost your mood in the first place. Once you’re aware of the cause, you can make changes in your life to avoid this particular stressor. For example, if you typically turn to comfort foods when you’re feeling lonely, consider doing activities that can enhance your social life, such as going to the gym or doing volunteer work.
Get more sleep
Your need for comfort foods may be partially driven by hormonal imbalance, which affects hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. Getting enough sleep helps naturally balance your hormones so you experience fewer cravings for junk foods. If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep per night, start going to bed earlier and make changes to your sleeping environment as needed to experience a relaxing and peaceful night’s sleep.
Just like sleep, exercise naturally regulates your hormones to reduce cravings for comfort foods. Plus, sticking to an exercise regime indirectly motivates you to make healthier food choices since your weight-loss progress will suffer if you don’t. Build exercise into your daily routine to eliminate your need for comfort foods.
If you generally turn to comfort foods when you’re feeling bored, find better ways to distract yourself that don’t involve eating. Buy a stack of new books, download new app games, or go for a walk to take your mind off eating.
Eat a healthier alternative
Sometimes it can be difficult to break free of a habit you’ve been practicing for a length of time. If you’re struggling with trying to avoid comfort-eating, try substituting comfort foods with healthier alternatives. For instance, if you’re craving candy, munch on sweet fruits like strawberries and cherries to get your sugar fix while boosting your health and metabolism in the process.
Determine whether hunger is physical or emotional
When you feel the need for comfort foods, determine whether your hunger is physical or emotional. Take into consideration the time you last ate, as well as the type of foods you ate. If you ate a fulfilling, satisfying meal two hours ago, your cravings for comfort food may be emotional. On the other hand, if you haven’t eaten for several hours, your body needs a healthy meal packed with nutrients to satisfy physical hunger and eliminate your cravings for comfort foods.
Need a little extra help meeting your weight-loss goals? Garcia Weight Loss offers personalized weight loss programs designed to help you look and feel your best. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on July 21, 2017