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Top 6 Triggers for Over-eating and Helpful Suggestions

1. “I Am Bored Out Of My Mind.”– You eat when you’re bored or do not have anything interesting to do or look forward to.

Solution: Prepare some healthy snacks like cut up fruit or vegetables and leave them in the fridge. If you decide to grab something to eat why not eat a healthy treat.

2. “I Shouldn’t Eat That.” Societal messages glorifying the importance of thinness has led to restrictive dieting tendencies in teens and young adults. By creating rules and guidelines around which foods are forbidden, it can lead to an endless cycle of restriction, breaking “the plan” and then feeling guilty and self-loathing as a result. To numb the negative feelings either the cycle of over-indulgence in restricted food continues or one may engage in harmful restricting or purging behaviors to try to cope.

Solution: Focus instead on healthy eating habits and exercise habits in general. Become aware of distorted thinking patterns and begin to challenge them or get a more balanced and realistic point of view. Focus on your overall physical well-being and health. Remember no harm will be done if you allow yourself to eat foods high in fat in moderation occasionally. Maintain a normal blood sugar level by eating small amounts every 3 hours. If binging, purging or restricting are occurring, seek advice from a Licensed Professional Counselor or Psychologist as these compulsive behaviors have very serious health risks attached to them.

3. “I Don’t Have Any Energy.”– After spending your day studying, working or both, you feel drained and tired. When you are experiencing low levels of energy you may reach for food to give us a boost. Feeling stressed or lacking vitality may cause you to reach for foods high in sugar, salt or carbohydrates. Although this may give us energy in the short-term, in the long-term it results in a depletion of energy.

Solution: Give yourself proper nutrition on a regulate basis to improve your energy level. Reach for foods high in vitamins and nutrients such as protein, nuts, fruits and vegetable, and carbohydrates high in fiber to give you some get up and go. Become aware of your low-energy periods of the day and substitute them with other activities for eating. Participate in alternative behaviors like taking a walk, chatting with friends, taking a break and getting a drink of water, relaxing, reading a book or listening to music that is positive and energizing.

4. Habits– Your daily routine is not as healthy as it could be and your habits may be so automatic that you are not even aware of them. If we have difficulty managing stress or have a lack of physical activity we may feel out of balance. Excessive eating may become an unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with emotions. Since overeating could have a ritualistic nature, your tendencies can occur at specific times in the day or in particular places.

Solution: Begin incorporating stress reduction tactics into your daily routine (i.e. exercise, yoga, meditation, journal, watch a funny movie, etc.). Become aware of your triggers and tendencies and change you routine.  Get a hobby that interests you. Address feelings of depression, anger and anxiety and reach out to a friend or a Licensed Professional Counselor for help.

5. “I Hate My Body.” If you are having difficulty accepting your body you may only be focusing on what is wrong and missing the big picture. There can be various thought distortions like: all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalization or catastrophic thinking, which are skewing your perspective and causing you to have an irrational view of yourself, the world, or the situation.

Solution: Seek professional advice from a dietitian or psychologist who will help you overcome these feelings of self-loathing and map out a plan to increase your self-esteem and improve your body-image. Identify your gifts, qualities and talents that you possess and celebrate those gifts daily.

6. Feeling Stressed Out!!!– You have pressures coming at you from different directions and are left feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. You spend a lot of your energy trying to live up to other people’s expectations or feel discouraged by other people’s remarks that you are exhausted. If you tend to be a perfectionist you may set such high and unrealistic expectations that you feel constantly defeated. Reaching for comfort food may be a way of coping with feeling out of control in your internal world.

Solution: Have compassion for yourself and take time out of your daily schedule to focus on self-care and relaxation is vital to your overall well-being. When our bodies are in a constant state of high alert our body releases toxic chemicals such as adrenaline, hormones, and cortisol. In order to prevent your stress level from passing the threshold, is important to give yourself permission to slow down. 

Take 5 minutes to breath and activate the parasympathetic system that calms down your central nervous system. Only then will your body be able to restore its natural balance and regulate your emotional and physiological system.

Learning to manage your emotions can lead to long-term success in life, instead of the temporary solution of turning to food or compulsive behaviors to cope. If you feel emotional eating is a problem, it may be wise to work with a counselor trained in eating disorders to help you create a healthy lifestyle and improve your quality of life.

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