Ending Emotional Eating Once And For All
Emotional eating…ugh! It gets the best of us sometimes - especially when your Aunt Louise comes over and starts bombarding you with a slew of questions about your career and love life. Okay, maybe that only happens in the Hallmark movies I’ve been binge watching this past month (it’s more like listening to in the background while making the graphics below, but still, it happens in the movies!).
I love this topic for a number of reasons. Mostly because I have used to be the most emotional of emotional eaters of all time! You might not believe it when I say I used to eat my feelings on the regular and it definitely wasn’t kale I was taking in. What? A nutritionist bingeing on sugar and regular food? Ha. Yes, I’m human too you know ;)
Thankfully, the countless hours I have put into healing my relationship with food has brought me to where I am today. Total peace with food and been binge free for the last 2 years. I wish that number was larger, but I’m all about honestly in this space and will happily dish out all the gruesome details of how I recovered and what a day of binge/emotional eating looked like for me in the past, but only if you want me to!
Now before you close the browser and tell yourself that this post “isn’t for you,” wait a second. Just because you don’t binge or eat for emotional reasons, doesn’t mean you don’t overeat. That we all do - Christmas dinner anyone?
I wanted to share my 20 tips for finally putting an end to emotional eating and breaking free of the vicious restriction, deprivation, binge and guilt cycle that we all experience when we eat our feelings rather than for nutritional reasons.
Like I said, we’ve all been there. We’ve eaten the cookies in secret, loaded our plate fuller than it needed to be and even snuck downstairs to eat a few extra slices of pie late at night. Emotional eating is one of the top three health complaints my clients share with me. We make it a point to tackle that frog first so they can free up their minds to focusing on their friends, family and life and break free of dieting and emotional eating. Please, for the love of your grandma’s pecan pie, do not be ashamed of yourself if you are an emotional eater. I can assure you that all of us have done it at least one and that you are not alone my friend.
So today’s post is for you.
It’s for those who struggle with their relationship with food on a daily basis.
For those who cut out sugar.
And then dairy.
And then gluten.
And restrict themselves to eating within a certain time window.
For those who are tired of creating a laundry list of foods they can’t or “shouldn’t” eat.
For those who want to finally feel at peace with food and like it doesn’t control every aspect of your life.
For those who want to be able to travel and taste new foods without worrying about if your jeans will fit tomorrow.
This post is for you gorgeous. The beautiful girl who can see a bit of her reflection in her computer or phone screen as she reads this. Who denies how jaw dropping gorgeous she is because she feels ashamed of her relationship with food. Friend, it’s tough. But you are FAR stronger than anything this world could ever through your way. This post is my Christmas gift to you so you can spend time with your loved ones without your mind drifting to thinking about the foods you can’t eat, when you’ll eat next or beating yourself up for the extra cookie you ate. This my beautiful lady, is the roadmap to creating a beautiful relationship with food that opens countless doors of opportunities for you.
So sit back, take a few notes if you please and breathe. This is a game changer :)
What better way to communicate to chew your food than through an adorable baby giraffe? But seriously, chew your food! If you need a glass of water or milk with each of your meals, you’re likely using it to wash down your food because you’re shallowing chunks of food whole. Eating a meal is both an experience and opportunity. Yes, an opportunity my friend! What other times do you have the opportunity to provide your body with the nutrition it needs on a cellular level? Chewing your food is more than just chewing it until it is the consistency of apple sauce. Yes, it’s partially that , but you’re giving your body a fighting chance to get into every nook and cranny of that morsel of food so your digestive enzymes can get to work. Digestive enzymes are like mini superheros that fly to the scene and help break down our foods from protein, fats and carbs into usable forms for our bodies, such as nucleic acids, amino acids and fatty acids. By chewing your food, you’ll not only get more energy back from it in return, you’ll take longer to eat which increases your leptin levels - your appetite suppressing hormone the signals to your body that you are full and can stop eating. If you’re swallowing your foods whole, you don’t give your body a chance to tell you that it’s full and you end up eating more as a result!
Drink water, but not with your meals! I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces and pausing your slurping sessions 15 minutes before your meals (so you have to chew and don’t dilute your digestive juices!) and resuming about 20 minutes after or drinking a peppermint or ginger tea to help digest your meal.
I love adding a bit of lemon or orange essential oils to my water to add a bit of flavour and to encourage me to keep the litres flowing when juice and sparkling water is more appealing ;)
The flavour is in fat! Think about that one for a second - has any low fat dish you’ve eaten every tasted delicious? I mean, besides oatmeal, because everyone knows you need some peanut butter on the bowl of creamy goodness to make it spectacular. Fat is both delicious and filing - from a caloric perspective, has the most number of calories per gram and holds appetite crushing superpowers that carbs don’t!
Fat is essential clear glowing skin, memory, joint lubrication and for your focus. Our brain is made of mostly fats (and water!) so taking is large quantities of both only make sense! So when you have the choice, choose a protein that has a bit higher fat content such as some turkey thighs, chicken thighs or salmon and make an effort to add some additional fats to your meal such as nuts, seeds or avocado. You’ll be amazed at how much faster you fill up when you add some healthy fats to your meal!
Need a hand adding some healthy fats to your meal? Check out my recipe for 6 Ingredient Chocolate Muffins that are packed with healthy fats!
Protein won’t make you bulky ladies. For some reason as soon as I tell women to start eating almost a gram of protein per pound of body weight, their eyes widen and I can see the terror in their eyes that their going to look like a fitness model. It’s a bit tougher than that, trust me, I’ve tried ;)
Protein is thermogenic, which means that you burn calories while eating it! Carbs nor fat do that for you friend, so choose your foods wisely! Make sure that each of your meals have a healthy source of protein whether that be chicken, fish, shellfish or a combination of plant based sources. If you’re new to the protein world, click here to learn about protein combining!
This next tip goes without saying. Your measly 6 ounce glass of wine (which usually becomes a 9 or 12 oz serving during the holidays) rings in at nearly 175 calories. That’s basically a brownie or 3 pieces of chocolate right there - which you will probably eat in addition to drinking the wine ;)
This doesn’t mean that you have to have a dry Christmas - that would be boring. But it does mean that you need to be mindful of the number of times your glass is being refilled. I encourage all of my clients to use a 1:1 ratio of booze to water which leads to them filing up faster and consuming less calories (both in food and wine) throughout the holidays.
I’m a fan of vodka sodas or “Vevia’s” - a mixture of vodka and Zevia, a sugar free soda that uses stevia as it’s sweetener. I’ve been loving with orange and grape soda lately, but you can easily substitute out the vodka and make a rye and ginger with their sugar-free ginger ale!
Find or make healthy alternatives to your favourite meals and snacks! If you’re known for bringing cookies to the family potluck, try making them with almond flour and maple syrup to lower the sugar into and keep your cravings in check! Healthy eating doesn’t mean that you have to restrict yourself and have zero fun when it comes to food - you can simply swap out some of the less healthy ingredients for superfoods.
Don’t believe me? Give my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites a whirl this holiday season and see if anyone tastes the difference. That’s if they even get to try them because they’re be gobbled up in a matter of moments ;)
We briefly touched on fat and protein already, but just to refresh your memory - fat and protein take the longest to digest. Carbs on the other hand are quick and take a fraction of the time to break down and convert to energy compared to the two other macronutrients. Start your meal by eating lightest to heaviest, which usually end ups being fruits, then vegetables, protein and then fats. For example, instead of tucking into your shepherd’s pie first and then finishing with your green salad, eat your veggies first and save the pie for last. This way you avoid that uncomfortable bloated feeling that usually goes along with eating too fast, in the wrong order and results in your faster digesting foods fermenting in your gut causing gas and bloating.
Volume eating. Ever heard of it? Let me introduce you to the best thing on earth to ever exist that lets you eat foods you love while still losing weight and feeling fab! Volume eating boils down to eating food that you can eat in large quantities but are low in calories. It’s as simple as swapping a bit of your high calorie foods such as rice, pasta or potatoes for some fruits or vegetables that pack a ton of fibre, water but save you a few inches on your waistline.
The next time you go to load up your plate at the family potluck, start with the vegetables and salads. Fill at least half of your plate with colourful vegetables, then move onto a palm sized amount of protein, a bit of fat and then some fun food. What is fun food? Your grandma’s casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the fixings. Eat your vegetables first and you’ll be amazed at how much faster you fill up on the good stuff that you only need a bit of the “fun foods” to crush your craving and carb tooth.
This one might sound a bit corky, but it’s invaluable. Eat from an actual plate - not a container, bag, sleeve or box. When your meal time rolls around, fill your plate with all the goodies (try choosing a smaller plate too trick yourself into thinking you’re eating more than you actually are) and then sit your beautiful bum in a chair to eat. When we choose to eat cookies right out of the box or sleeve, we loose track and forget that we’ve had 5 instead the 2 that we think we’re eaten. From a mindfulness perspective, we are much more conscious of how much we are truly eating when we can see it in front of us and it stops us from going back for fourths!
The biggest mistake I used to make was gorging at night and then skipping breakfast the next day because I was still full from last night’s trip to binge town. Even if you eat a little too much, don’t start skipping around and eating a handful of nuts and seeds here or a piece of fruit for breakfast and expect it to get your through your jam packed day. Eat regular meals about 3-4 hours apart and don’t go too long without eating, as I can promise you that it ends up delivering you a one way ticket to binge city later that evening when you are starving and don’t have the mental energy or time to whip up a nutritious meal.
Remember when I mentioned the hormone leptin? Well it has a bestie name ghrelin. It almost sounds like gremlin (which is what I accidentally typed if I’m being honest ;) and is basically that. A hunger gremlin. Grhelin is known as the hunger hormone and is produced by our stomachs. It’s responsible for stimulating our appetite and promotes fat storage. Boo! Our grehlin levels naturally rise before eating and drop as eat. It’s buddy leptin kicks in and sends a signal to our brains to stop eating and helps to regulate how much energy our bodies burn throughout the day.
So why are you telling me to sleep? Well sister, studies have shown that lack of sleep is directly correlated with reduced leptin levels, elevate grehlin levels and higher body fat percentages. So that beauty sleep you think you’re getting is actually helping you to burn fat while you’re in a deep slumber. Now that’s a bonus! So make an effort to get 6-8 hours of deep restful sleep in a pitch black room if you can!) each and every night to keep your appetite in check.
You’ve heard the word cortisol before right? Our bodies are brilliant in the sense that we have intricate systems for keeping ourselves happy and healthy. We have a complex system known as our HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) that includes our hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands - three of our endocrine glands. Together, these power houses help to regulate our body’s reactions to stress, digestion, mood and any potential threats to our immune system. Let’s just say they’re pretty important. Your adrenals are responsible for creating cortisol, your stress hormone that also helps to regulate our metabolism. Increased levels of cortisol have been directly linked to higher levels of body fat. That’s the opposite of what we want to happen this holiday season! So the next time you find yourself wanting to pull your hair out due to stress levels at work and home, take a deep breath in. Go for a walk, go to a yoga class, write down the never ending list of to-do’s you have pouring through your head and take a second to yourself. Use some essential oils if you need something to instantly take the edge off and build some you time into your schedule.
No chocolate, cookies, cake, pie, potatoes, stuffing or any fun foods this year.
How awful and restrictive is that? Too restrictive for me, if you were asking for my opinion.
I’m more of a “I can eat anything I want to” kinda girl, but I choose to eat my fruits and vegetables first, then protein, fats and fun foods. I don’t restrict myself. Like ever. And as soon as you scrap the diet mentality and allow yourself to have permission to eat anything and everything, you surrender the temptation that all of these foods have because you are no longer containing yourself in food prison. I guarantee you that by removing the words, “I can’t have that” from you vocabulary, if you do choose to eat whatever treat is calling your name you will only have a fraction of the amount that you normally would because you don’t feel like you’re rebelling or breaking the rules!
But why?!?! I love my lulus…. :(
Because yoga pants stretch and they make it easy to overeat. Jeans don’t have much give on the other hand and act as a bit of a reminder when you are starting to fill up at meal times.
Wear your jeans, dress pants and more fitting clothes so that you aren’t shocked when you try to squeeze back into them in the New Year and your draw drops because you can no longer get the zipper up.
It doesn’t have to be complex, a simple note in your phone or an account with My Fitness Pal will work. Keep track of your snacks and meals so you don’t forget what you’ve eaten throughout the day. That way when the pumpkin pie is calling from the fridge later at night, you will remember that you’ve already had a few slices along with a mountain of broccoli and turkey!
Really Lindsay? I’m not an animal, I eat my meals at a table….. Yes you might, but the rest of us are exhuasted human beings who come home after a long day at work and plop down on the sofa with a box of cookies and bag of chips while trying to unwind from our insane day with the help of the Gilmore Girls. If you’re the exception and eat all of your snacks and meals at an actual table and set your fork down between bites, I applaud you and give you full on permission to ignore this tip. Keep on carrying on.
For the rest of us - keep your food in the kitchen. We’re creatures of habit and love to be productive so we eat and type, eat and drive, eat and watch tv… you get the idea. We might be doing two things at once, but we miss out completely on the experience of eating. Let yourself enjoy the pleasure of food and give your body a fighting chance to produce leptin (our appetite suppressing hormone) as we chew our food to a liquid like consistency and take a breath between bites.
You might’ve eaten a bit too much the night before, but skipping your workout won’t make you feel any better darling. Yes you might be a bit uncomfortable at the beginning because your stomach is a bit too full, but that will go away as soon as you start to move and your digestive system kicks in. Give yourself 30 minutes to work up a bit of sweat, produce some dopamine (your feel good hormone) and then hydrate afterwards with plenty of water.
Don’t wait until the New Year.
Don’t wait until Monday.
Heck, don’t even wait until tomorrow!
Start today with the dozen or so tips I listed above. Don’t keep giving up on your goals becuase they’re too grand or someone once told you that they’re next to impossible to achieve. Stop telling yourself that you have no willpower or control. Stop telling yourself that things will change with the help of a new diet, pill or potion. Stop telling yourself that tomorrow is the day you will make revolutionary changes.
Tomorrow might not come. Sorry to sound depressing, but it’s true. For all you know, a gorgeous icicle could fall off a roof and knock you out cold, for good.
Forgive yourself for your past and all the diets you’ve put yourself through these last few years. Trudge forward with the same level of confidence that you did when you were that little girl running through the house with your underwear on your head believing that you’re some kind of superhero. The world was her oyster, and it’s still yours. Don’t loose that sense of confidence in your abilities because you have what it takes to make change.
This one sounds a little funny and at first glance might be misunderstood, but let me explain. Thank you, but no thank you means you have permission to say no to eating certain foods, drinking whatever concoction your booze loving brother makes and to skipping a workout. Thank you, but no thank you also applies to you saying no to going to certain events or parties that no part of you wants to go to, but feels “forced to.”
You don’t have to do anything.
You don’t have to worry about hurting other people’s feelings or disappointing them because for once you choose yourself.
You have nothing to be afraid of.
If you’re worried about breaking your grandma’s heart by choosing to not eat her sugar cookies, say “thank you Grammie but I’m stuffed at the moment. Do you mind if I take them home and eat them later?” That usually does the trick ;)
This last point is the most important of them all. If you do binge or over eat. Forgive yourself sister and move the heck on! That was yesterday and today is a brand new day :D
Don’t get dragged down by what happened the day before or even a few hours before. You are (and should always be) your biggest source of happiness. Don’t rely on food to bring you joy - you find that is people you love and things that you light your soul on fire. You’ll take fifty steps forward and then a few back, but that doesn’t mean you’re back to the beginning. Heck, you’re light years ahead from where you first started, you just haven’t looked over your shoulder to see that you’re not in Kansas anymore!
You sister are amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I’m listening to the song “Somebody to Love” by Queen while I type this, but because you are seriously rockstar worthy in my mind. The fact that you read this post to it’s very sweet end warms my little gingery heart. But it also shows how committed you are to yourself and making lasting changes. I can’t promise you that every step of your journey and ending emotional eating will be easy, but I can assure you that it is so so worth it.
Let me be your cheerleader, the one who picks you up my your belt loop and plops you right back on your path as I stand back and admire you and all of the hard work you have put in so far. Trust me, your work isn’t going unrecognized.
Forget about where you started yesterday or the day before. Focus on the now and where you want to go. Anything is possible madame and the fact that you have a bravery and audascity to dream as grandely as you are, shows that you know you are capable of anything.
It' starts with you.
Start where you are with Beyonce like confidence and know that anything is possible!
All my love and support,