Find Ways — Other Than Eating — to Cope with Emotions

Keeping a food journal calls for recording what and when you eat and how you're feeling when you eat. Look back at your journal now and then: How many times did you record words that signal stress, sadness, anger, loneliness, or exhaustion?

Try one of these nonfood coping strategies if emotion, not hunger, triggered you to eat:

  • Talk with a friend.

  • Go for a walk, play with your pet, or ask someone for a hug.

  • Release anger by pounding your fist into a pillow or just go ahead and scream!

  • Confront the person who is making you angry.

  • Cry if you need to.

  • Practice breathing exercises, breathing in and out deeply, to help center yourself.

  • Ask for time out or help on a project, if needed.

  • Take a yoga or meditation class.

  • Schedule time for yourself.

  • Get a good night’s sleep or take a nap.

People who belong to 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, use techniques to keep from engaging in their addictive behaviors. One method is called HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These physical and emotional feelings can masquerade as cravings for substances or behaviors.

So if a 12-stepper feels the need to return to his self-destructive behavior, a quick inventory reveals what needs to be done. For example, you can relieve feelings of loneliness with a call to a friend or cure tiredness with a nap. The point is to recognize the triggers and deal with them rather than substitute unhealthy behaviors.

Psychologists know that giving your emotions a name makes them easier to deal with. Labeling makes feelings concrete, and therefore, you can cope with them. If you engage in emotional eating, labeling what you’re feeling when you eat may be the secret to eating less.

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