I wonder if emotional eating is an issue for you? I know it is for many of the women I work with in my hypnotherapy practice, and sometimes for myself personally.

What I mean by emotional eating is reaching for food when you are not physically hungry. You may eat when you feel stressed, sad, bored, lonely, angry, as a way of treating yourself or to celebrate (maybe all of these!). These are all examples of emotional or comfort eating, which certainly doesn’t always have to be labelled as a problem (because quite frankly I dislike labels!) There are times when we are going to go out for a meal to celebrate, or have a bar of chocolate when we’re having a bad day at work. However, if your emotional eating feels out of control, then this can create excess weight and also mean that you are not truly meeting your emotional needs.

That’s why I have created an Emotional Eating Toolkit – three steps that will help you to feel more in control and make more resourceful choices.

1) Keep a Food Diary

Now, you might be thinking, ‘A food diary? Are you crazy? I feel obsessed with food at the moment and don’t want to increase that feeling.’ I hear you! My clients often feel some resistance when I ask them to keep a food diary, until I explain that this isn’t about strictly monitoring your intake and beating yourself up about it (that really isn’t my style!)

The truth is that writing down what you eat can be very helpful to raise awareness of the food you are choosing. However, the main point of this diary is to notice those times when you are reaching for food and you’re not really hungry. Whenever you notice this happening, I invite you to write down what is going on for you at that time; what emotion are you experiencing?

When you start keeping a food diary like this, you will become aware of your individual emotional triggers for eating. It’s like putting your detective hat on and gathering information. Once you have this information, you can move forward from a position of power, which leads me on nicely to the next step…

2) Establish Positive Rituals

In their wonderful book, ‘On Form’, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz talk about positive rituals, ‘precise, consciously acquired behaviours that become automatic in our lives’, in other words, ‘habits’.

At the moment, emotional eating may be a habit for you. It has been something that you do without even realising it. Your subconscious mind, that part of you that makes your decisions, has got into a rut of reaching for the ice-cream when you feel sad, or chips when you feel stressed. Now that you have recognised this and you know what your particular emotional triggers are, you can begin to establish a new, more resourceful response – a positive ritual.

Your subconscious mind doesn’t like to be told, ‘no’, or ‘don’t’. So, if you say to yourself, ‘From now on, I don’t eat biscuits when I feel bored’, your mind will struggle with that. However, if you reword the statement as, ‘From now on, I will read a book whenever I feel bored’, your mind has something positive to do and it will respond willingly to that.

Go through any emotional triggers you have identified and decide how you could respond differently. Write down some ideas for new positive rituals. For example, if you are feeling stressed, eating cake probably isn’t going to make you feel calmer. It might do for a few moments, but then the stress will come back, maybe even worse than before. So, maybe you could choose to go for a short walk, or even take a few deep breaths? Pick new positive habits that work for you and write them down. By committing your positive rituals to paper, you are setting a clear and definite intention.

3) Fill Your Well

This is a concept I learned from Julia Cameron in her book, ‘The Artist’s Way’. She talks about the fact that as we go through life, we draw on our ‘inner well’, our inner resources, and if we don’t regularly refill the well, we can end up feeling depleted and stagnant. This is when our emotions can rise to the surface and start to feel overwhelming.

If we ensure that we are filling our well consistently, we feel more balanced and in control. We can deal with situations that arise, even if they are stressful. We are able to make better choices and truly meet our own needs.

So, what fills your well?

For me, it is being in nature, walking, drinking plenty of water, taking time to meditate and my daily practice of EFT (emotional freedom technique). I notice that when I’m not getting enough of these well-filling activities, I feel scattered and I’m likely to make unhelpful choices.

Take some time to think about the particular activities that fill your well. Once you have your own well-filling list, make them a priority. Plan them into your daily schedule and keep your well topped up.

When we are truly looking after ourselves, those emotional triggers are less likely to arise.

Lighter YouSo, that’s your Emotional Eating Toolkit. Try it out and I’d love you to comment below and let me know how you get on. If emotional eating is a particular issue for you and you feel you would like some more support, then my new ecourse, 5 Weeks to a Lighter You! could be just for you. Click here for all the details and sign-up today.

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Nicola is a hypnotherapist specialising in weight loss and well-being. She has worked with many women over the years to help them lose the weight they want to, feel wonderful AND maintain that weight loss. She calls this creating a 'Forever' Weight Loss mindset.
Nicola offers a range of both online programs and one-to-one hypnotherapy sessions. Take a look at what some of her clients have said about her here and follow her on Facebook.