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8 Cures for Emotional Eaters

Boss yelled at you? Have some candy. It’s a late night and you’re feeling lonely? You need some ice cream. Food can temporarily make you feel better but it can’t solve the problems in your life. Read on for solutions to emotional eating problems.

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1. Avoid Eating Alone

Sure, sometimes it can’t be helped. But if you plan to eat as many snacks and meals as you can with family or friends, you’ll enjoy your food more, you’ll eat more slowly, and you’ll feel fuller afterward. Plus you’ll avoid the mindless noshing that is mostly done when alone.

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2. Go for a Walk

If you’re bored, stressed, or even angry, a short walk in the great outdoors will likely do much more for your state of mind than a bowl or bag of food. Chances are your craving will be gone or greatly diminished by the time you get back.

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3. Relax During Work

The same strategy works during the day. Anytime you feel stress pushing you to the vending machine or the fridge, give yourself a time-out. Try taking five slow, deep breaths. Count to four as you breathe in, and then exhale for a count of four while rolling your head and dropping your shoulders. You may find that a pause to relax is enough to quell your urge to eat.

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4. Relax After Work

When you come home from along, busy day, chances are you may be tempted to grab crackers, chips – whatever is readily available to shove into your mouth – to “tide you over” until dinner. But a lot of this “hunger” is, in fact, nerves or tension. Next time, try this instead: When you come home, immediately devote 20 minutes to doing something relaxing. Play on the floor with the kids, take a warm shower, weed your garden, or pick flowers for the dinner table. Suddenly, you’re not so starving, are you?

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5. Chew Gum

Sometimes what drives you to refrigerator is just a need to move your jaw. Satisfy this need by chewing a stick of gum. Keep several packs of sugar-free gum around the house and the office so when you feel the urge to eat, you can pop a stick in your mouth. You’ll either quickly forget the urge to eat or the hunger will continue, signalling that you’re genuinely hungry.

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6. Eat Only at the Table

There’s a whole body of research that suggests that when you eat on the couch, at your desk, in the car, or standing at the sink, your brain doesn’t always register the fact that you’ve had a meal, and that can lead to feelings of deprivation and a tendency to overeat later in the day. Even when you’re just having a snack, take the time to put it on a plate and then have a seat at the table with a glass of water or seltzer. Taking time to get out a plate and utensils (or a napkin) will give you a chance to reflect on whether you’re really hungry or just looking to satisfy some other type of urge.

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7. Measure Your Servings

Don’t eat anything straight from a box or a bag. If you want potato chips, put a handful on a plate, put the bag back in the cupboard, and then sit down to eat.

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8. Say it Out Loud

You’re sad or lonely or bored, and you’re about to tuck into a large bowl of ice cream. Okay, fine. But first admit what you’re doing out loud by saying, “I’m not hungry, but I’m going to eat this anyway.” Brian Wansink, a food and diet researcher at Cornell University, has asked volunteers to try this method with great success. Simply taking time to think about what you’re about to do may be enough to dissuade you from doing it. If it doesn’t, the inherent contradiction in eating when you’re not hungry – and admitting as much – should eventually wear down your desire for whatever food is your weakness.