3. Environmental: seeing an advertisement for a particular food, smelling fresh popped popcorn at a movie theatre, smelling food from a nearby restaurant, seeing donuts in the bakery window, going to a sporting event
4. Thoughts: mentally thinking about food, or imagining eating a particular food, having negative memories about being deprived, thinking positively about some food from your past
5. Physiological: eating in response to physical cues such as thirst, hormonal cravings, hunger pains, or eating to cure headaches or other aches/pain
Food triggers are important to recognize so you can start to minimize your exposure to them which in turn, helps you make more thoughtful decisions about your food choices. The key is to start to minimize your exposure to them.
Also, your food triggers can feel very powerful but I want you to consider the idea that once you are aware of them, you can be more in control of them by recognizing the thoughts you have before you “pull the trigger”, so to speak.
Here is an example: You come home from work with a slight headache. You open the cupboard and see the brownies you made last night. Your thought is “…chocolate has always helped my headaches before….I think I’ll have some” Then you get the pan out, cut off a nice big chunk, and proceed to put it in your mouth piece by piece.
Keep this in mind, eating never comes automatically. Your triggers (like seeing or smelling the pan of brownies) do not automatically lead to eating, your thoughts determine whether or not you actually eat, and then often the trigger will ignite the willingness to indulge (in this particular case, thinking the chocolate will help the headache). There is always a thought before a behavior, and becoming aware of your thoughts before giving in to the triggers will help you long-term with mindless eating.
Here are just three things to remember when trying to manage emotional eating:
1. Develop healthier eating habits. Drink water instead of pop. Munch on healthy snacks instead of chips, sweets, and bad carbs. Make healthy food choices every day, you’ll feel better, you’ll sleep better, and respond better to everything that life has to offer.
2. When under stress, your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, and cortisol tends to make people crave sweet and salty foods. Finding ways to relax your body helps with an overall physical and emotional healthy balance. Take a walk, do yoga, pray, read a book, find ways to be peaceful within and release your stress.
3. Find healthy ways of coping with anger, fear, and other negative feelings. Talk with a friend or a support group, try journaling, or seek professional help. Sometimes you just need other people to help you sort things out.
Emotional eating has many causes, that‘s for sure. If you’re an emotional eater, be aware of your triggers, create some good techniques to manage them, and work to improve good coping skills that will prevent emotional eating from happening.