Expert / 2 November, 2021 / Pranita Salunke
Are you emotional eating? As parents, we have had to deal with a lot recently. As if looking after children isn’t difficult enough, we’ve also had to contend with a global pandemic, lockdown, social isolation, homeschooling and all the anxiety that goes with trying to do the right thing for all our loved ones.
It is a stressful time, so it should come as no surprise that many of us have been reaching for unhealthy snacks when things get tough. Does this sound familiar?
The reality is that there is a multimillion-dollar diet industry out there that ensures that new diet plans and products are continuously emerging onto the market. However, despite many theories, scientific guidance and knowledge, many of these diet plans are not sustainable and often fail to produce desired changes to transform us into a more healthy lifestyle. This is because we humans are complex beings and our eating behaviour is continually being influenced by many factors that go beyond any scientific knowledge. Our thoughts, emotions, harmony and disharmony of our relationship with others and time of the day, our ability to control our stress levels, are all positively or negatively impacting our food choices, quality and quantity of our food intake.
This problematic behaviour stems from a Mind-Body-Soul disconnect. Put simply, this means your mind is on autopilot while your body is consuming food. You’re eating food without really becoming conscious of the nourishment it is providing or even the environment you are consuming the meal in.
When we feel blue, we have stressful days at work or when children are misbehaving, we often seek comfort in foods that give an immediate response of pleasure – such as fried chips, crisps, pizza or sugary snacks. We know these aren’t healthy, but what’s more, eating while we are in a negative state of mind leads to further problems such as over-eating, digestive issues, and ultimately, an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
So, if you think you probably struggle with emotional eating, try these powerful yet simple ideas:
Take a moment to bring awareness to your thoughts before you eat. Often emotional eating stems from a lack of positive emotions, for example, feeling of love, peace and contentment, or it could be an excess of negative emotions such as when you are angry, stressed or anxious. Either way, try to recognise your feelings and do what it takes to manage your emotional upheaval before dinning – it might just mean a short walk or listening to your favourite music, but it enables you to take more nourishment and enjoyment from your meals.
Deep breathing will help you to centre your consciousness into the present moment of preparing your body for a nourishing meal. This is especially true when you are stressed or had an argument. Calm yourself with 5 to 10 deep inhalations and exhalations – it is a scientifically proven method to control emotional eating behaviour.
This powerful yogic pose is yet another technique that will help in calming your emotions and create mind and body integration, a key to stop emotional eating. Lie on mat or bed a few minutes before your meal and simply release any tension from the body while observing your breath. Do this for 2-3 min and before enjoying your meal.
Social isolation increases your chances of emotional eating, so share your meals with another person whenever possible. Of course, the global pandemic created an environment for many people that is conducive for social isolation, but when eating alone we often make less effort in cooking a healthy meal and resort to eating while watching YouTube, and not realising the quality and quantity of food we are consuming. To break this cycle, try to eat at least one meal in the company of a family member or friend. If a physical meeting is not possible, why not schedule a dinner date with a friend via Zoom or Skype? Although both of you are having a meal in your own home you are connecting with meaningful conversation.
Being surrounded by work, laptops and even your children’s toys can add to your stress without realising it. Try creating a positive environment to eat, preferably in the company of family and friends. Take a multi-sensory approach: light a fragrant candle, put on soothing music, breath in the aroma of the delicious meal – it might take a little effort, but you’ll notice a big difference in how you feel during and after your meal.
Pranita Salunke has more than twenty year’s experience as a Preventative Cardiology Specialist and Occupational Therapist. Her new book, Vitality: A Healthy and Happy Heart is out now. For more information go to Pranita Vitality
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