(The following is adapted from the new book Cravings Boss: The REAL Reason You Crave Food and a 5-Step Plan to Take Back Control by Natalia Levey , CHC, CNC)
Unsatisfying relationships, stressful jobs, disappointing sex life and emotional highs and lows can all cause excessive binging or deprivation eating. Remember the break-up movie scene? When emotions run high, the body sends craving cues in order to obtain “rewards” from the brain, even if temporary. It’s always best to seek out non-food related rewards first.
When was the first time you bought a ticket for the emotional rollercoaster? Are you still on that ride? Or do you receive a monthly subscription of emotions, gradually increasing over time? Let’s take a look at how this might play out.
1. Fear. Fear and worry show up throughout the day. You may be nervously anticipating your next meeting, worried about a conversation you had, or simply anxious about how to get everything done on your to-do list.
2. Sadness. We all experience sadness at certain points in our lives. Some people experience deeper sadness and for longer periods of time. You may find yourself turning to food to fill an emotional void, as though the solution to your problems can be found at the bottom of an ice cream pint.
3. Anger. Anger tends to swoop in before we even realize what happened, stealing the show and leaving everyone feeling worse in the end. To bury the shame and guilt that comes afterward, food often becomes a main focus. You may have noticed that you turn to food after coming down from an angry altercation.
Fortunately, you can conquer your cravings by addressing these emotional imbalances in many ways that do not involve food.
Learn to handle your emotions using non-food related tactics.
Include plenty of self-care to help prevent emotional upheaval in the first place.
Develop a list of self-care practices that you can implement when the need arises. The specific practices will vary from person to person. For one person, self-care might take the form of a long walk in nature, while for another person it might include a hot bath and a cup of tea.
Some self-care, however, is virtually universal. Soothing music works as a form of relaxation for almost anyone because the heart begins to automatically lower to match the beats per minute of the music. Similarly, meditation and deep breathing are well documented to provide relaxation benefits in the short term, and a wide array of mental and emotional benefits when practiced long term.
It might take time and experimentation to find the right combination of self-care practices that work to relax and reward you emotionally so that you don’t give in to your food cravings and eat food that isn’t good for you. The amount of time you invest in finding a non-food solution to emotional disruptions is time well spent, as it will allow you to address your emotional issues in a healthy, balanced way.
If one self-care practice doesn’t work, resist the urge to solve your problems by giving into cravings and try another until you begin to feel better. The sooner you find a way to handle your upsets without food, the better off you will be.
Keep in mind that not all emotional upsets are this easily solved. If your emotional distress is beginning to impact your daily life, consider meeting with a mental health professional in order to assess your condition and make sure that you are getting appropriate treatment that will make you feel better sooner than you could on your own.
Natalia Levey, CNC, CHC is a professional chef, author, speaker, and a certified health and nutrition coach. She educates people worldwide about how to make behavioral changes resulting in improved nutrition and better energy. Natalia received her culinary training at the Art Institute of New York, is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is certified as a nutritional consultant from The American Association of Nutritional Consultants. She is also the founder of Healthy Intent , a company dedicated to providing healthy, food and lifestyle based solutions for weight loss, vitality and more. She is publisher and editor-in-chief of “Healthy Intent” magazine and her debut book Cravings Boss is now available. She resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband, daughter and beloved Samoyed. She can usually be found in her Kitchen, where she is the happiest. cravingsboss.com .