Before speeding out of control like a runaway train when you get derailed from your nutrition plan, choose a different track. Life stressors can trigger emotional eating or destructive behavior that, if you allow it to, will disrupt your health and fitness goals. Add to that being unprepared and it can be a train wreck waiting to happen.

Emotional eating will sabotage any weight management plan or fitness program. The Mayo Clinic describes emotional eating as a way of eating “to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness.” Sure life happens and no one is immune to occasionally falling off the wagon, yet the red flag pops up when it becomes a more frequent occurrence. If you are derailing off your nutrition plan a few times a week, or worse yet, daily, then it’s time to identify what is triggering this behavior.

There are a multitude of triggers that can spark emotional eating. They range from major life events to the daily hassles of life. Some common triggers are: unemployment, financial pressure, relationship conflicts, work stress and fatigue. Being faced with adversity or strong emotions can trigger impulsive or binge eating and worse yet, will be to grab whatever is convenient or “comfort” food, which is high in fat, sugar and calories. Unfortunately this behavior can become a habit as your emotions are tied up with food and even when you aren’t hungry you’ve programmed yourself to reach for food.

The sad reality is that emotional eating does not “fix” the problem, it compounds it. It can be a vicious ugly cycle. Your emotions trigger you to overeat then you feel the guilt and burden for getting off track that you feel bad and....overeat again. The only way to end this cycle is to...STOP!

You can STOP this destructive cycle. Identify the triggers and choose a positive outlet or path as opposed to being self-destructive. Here are some suggestions:

Food Journal. Keep a food diary and write down the times you eat, what you eat, how much you eat and how you feel before and after you’ve eaten. Over time you may identify patterns emerge that reveal a connection of mood and food which will allow you to make changes.

Sweat. When you feel your emotions getting the best of you, unleash them into a high intensity workout. Grab your training shoes or boxing gloves instead of food.

Eliminate Temptation. Do not keep any comfort foods on hand that you know you won’t be able to resist when a “fire” goes off! If they aren’t around, you will not eat them. Instead, make sure to have your healthy food prepared and ready to grab. This is especially important on days you’ve waited too long in between meals as you are at risk of grabbing a high fat, high calorie unhealthy quick option.

Journal. Writing down your emotions whether it be about relationship conflicts, work related stress or finances may help you come up with solutions to the problem. This can be an effective coping mechanism and a positive way to contend with difficult situations.

The Red Phone. Before you choose a destructive path, call someone! Call a friend, your coach, a loved one. Vent your emotions and allow them to help you work through the crisis.

If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and move on. Learn from the experience and make a plan to prevent it from happening again. The bottom line is, there will always be stress that can put you at risk for destructive behavior, yet a positive outlet will also always exist. Choose it. Everyday you stay on track will be rewarding which in turn gives you a sense of accomplishment and more motivation in your quest to lead a healthier life.

By Liza Hughes RN
Fitness.Nutrition.Wellness.
Lifestyle Coach to Women

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