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Overcoming Emotional Eating And Other Nutritional Challenges

01/08/2020
By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

When it comes to getting into better physical shape, most people have a general understanding of what to do. We understand that exercise and frequent movement is a key component of body transformation. But what about emotional eating? More fruits and vegetables in our diets is a good thing. Many of us know that while it may taste delicious, eating a pint of ice cream every day probably isn’t the best way to spend their macros. The problem isn’t the knowledge, the problem, oftentimes, lies in the execution.

How to Stop Emotional Eating – DoctorOz

I have been a personal trainer for over ten years. While I have seen many diets come and go in this period, the same food frustrations tend to repeat themselves. When you dig a little deeper, most of these food problems tend to stem from behaviors. Our habits dictate the results that we get. In addition, they tell us how well we can maintain our progress after we have achieved change. While it can be difficult to change these habits, this change isn’t impossible. Here are three of the most common diet problems that drive people crazy and how you can solve them for good.

Nutrition Challenge # 1: I Eat Larger Portions Than I Need

I was raised in a home where you weren’t allowed to leave the dinner table unless you cleared your plate. While my parents had the best intentions, this built a habit of overeating that traveled with me throughout my life. Consequently, I was only able to re-pattern in adulthood. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who ingrained lessons like this from my environment. We do this all the time.

Take a look around modern society and you will find a host of triggers for emotional eating. These can make it feel completely natural to eat more than you need. Hyper-palatable foods devised by food chemists, larger plates, and even bigger portion sizes are just some examples of how easy it is to overeat.

Large Plate of Rice and chicken for a meal due to emotional eating.
Large Portion of Chicken and Rice (Image Source: Pexels)

Solution: Tips For Portion Control

When it comes to controlling portions, your hands are all you need. They are always with you and are proportionate to your body. This makes them great measuring tools that you can bring with you anywhere. So, use them to estimate just how much food and nutrients you should be putting on your plate. In this measuring system:

  • A serving of protein should be equal to the size of one palm
  • One serving of vegetables should be equal to the size of one fist
  • A serving of carbs should be equal to the size of one cupped hand
  • One serving of fat should be equal to the size of one thumb

As a general rule of thumb, men should opt to double each of these servings. From the above list, men can expect a portion size to equal two palms, two fists, two cupped hands, and two thumbs respectively. This system is much easier to follow than calorie counting and much less stressful. Just as if you were counting calories, make sure that you check your results and adjust accordingly.

Nutrition Challenge # 2: I Don’t Have Time To Prepare Meals

Time is a resource that we can never seem to have enough of. In this modern era, everyone has a packed schedule and “to-go” seems to be the major go-to. When it comes to dealing with a hectic lifestyle, I want you to remember two words. The first word is “prioritized.” It’s a fact that we all have only twenty-four hours in a day, but have you ever completed an audit to truly see where your time is going? You’ll be truly surprised when you do because I can almost guarantee that you will find some extra time to prepare something healthy. Especially if building the body of your dreams is important to you. The second word that I want you to remember is “continuum.”

A woman cooking vegetables.
Meal Preparation (Image Source: Unsplash)

Solution: Don’t Aim To Be Perfect & Fall in Love With Fast Healthy Meals

You may not be able to make every single meal in your week. But remember, the key is finding the small victories and allowing those to accumulate. Just making one meal more than you did last week puts you in a better position. Focus on making food in batches when you can to save valuable time, and find quick bang for your buck items that have multiple uses.

One of my favorite grocery store pick-ups is a rotisserie chicken. Whenever I’m in a crunch for time, I can easily tear off pieces of meat and compose different meals on the fly. On the lookout for more inspiration? 1AND1 has you covered with these healthy snack ideas. In addition to finding healthy shortcuts, I want you to begin to look at healthy eating as more of a continuum. When you stop looking at success in black and white, then it becomes way easier to identify small victories on your way to securing your bigger goals.

Nutrition Challenge # 3: I Can’t Stop Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is something that a large percentage of the population has dealt with at one point or another. It’s a real thing that has nothing to do with discipline or you lacking willpower. This type of eating involves turning to food to change the way that we feel or to avoid feeling a certain way altogether. Maybe this means opening up a jar of Nutella and putting it on everything when you have had a bad day at work or opening up a container of Ben & Jerry’s and going to town after a stressful conversation.

Women eating pasta at a table.
Emotional Eating (Image Source: Unsplash)

Physical hunger comes along gradually and may include symptoms such as a headache, lightheadedness, or actual stomach pains. Emotional hunger usually comes along suddenly and we crave specific things.

Solution: Identify The Trigger for Emotional Eating And Build New Patterns

This emotional eating and the intense food cravings for your favorite meals are usually triggered by a specific experience. Think about life’s purpose. For most of us, it includes happiness, which we sometimes replace with food. The next time that you find yourself in this situation, I want you to stop and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Am I hungry?
  2. If not, then what’s bothering me?
  3. After identifying the trigger, what can I do about it or what are some alternative actions I can take to alleviate this stress?

Once we identify the trigger for emotional eating, we can begin to break the pattern and establish new behaviors in its place. Each time you make a new choice, you reinforce new pathways and make these “muscles” stronger. Remember, small changes and actions lead to massive results over time, but before you can begin to build consistency here, you need to understand the psychology behind your actions.

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