Anyone who has eaten her way through a bad day knows the tricky relationship between food and emotions. Instead, try these tools (instead of a fork) to attack emotional angst. In the time it takes to forage for your favorite quick-fix food, you can take steps to break the cycle, beat stress, eliminate emotional eating, and yes, finally experience some weight loss for good without even trying.
1) Play detective. Keep a food journal, suggests eating expert Joan Chrisler, PhD, professor of psychology at Connecticut College. "Every time you reach for food, write down what you eat and how you were feeling. Bored? Frustrated? Happy? Before long, you'll see a pattern. Then you can start to break it.
2) Keep your hand busy during downtime Many people eat every time there's a lull, such as during TV commercials, says eating disorders expert Sandra Haber, PhD, adjunct associate clinical professor at Adelphi University's Derner Institute in New York City. Be prepared for those lulls. "Keep manicure supplies, stacks of empty photo albums, or a cross-stitch project by the TV for something to do," she suggests. Even better, find a hobby. When you're engrossed in something you love, you forget all about eating.
3) Confront the here and now. "If dwelling burned calories, no woman would be overweight," says Pamela M. Peeke, MD, M.PH., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and author of the bestselling book Fight Fat After Forty. "Instead of ruminating, take action." If a certain person upset you, limit your time with her. And if you need help, get therapy. When you confront your pain head-on, it gives you control of it, so you don't need food.
4) Rewrite history. When was the last time you succeeded, laughed, or had a great time? How did you feel? Rewrite your mental history books to focus on those moments, and you'll spend less time eating your sorrows away." School, work, and society teach us to concentrate on our mistakes, so we can correct them. The result: We remember all the bad stuff. Every time a bad memory pops up, replace it with a good one. You'll feel better about your life and set yourself up for weight loss.
5) Make nice with yourself. For a day, pretend you have a cartoon bubble over your head, and catch everything you say to yourself, suggests Haber. Write it down, and read it back. Negative self-talk keeps you buried in your pain. "Keep saying you're fat and lazy, and it's little wonder that you hide away and feed yourself junk," she says. Instead, offer yourself the same encouragement you'd give to a friend. It feels artificial at first, but when you catch yourself saying something mean, stop, and make it positive and uplifting.
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