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How to take control of emotional eating

3 tips for eating mindfully that may also help relieve stress


By Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD
August 1, 2017

     


Do you tend to eat more when you are sad, stressed, anxious or bored? Do you eat as a reward even if you are not hungry?

Lots of us are of the mindset that when we’re sad or stressed, we can eat whatever food we want. But by doing this, we give food the power to dictate how we feel and what our mood should be. It also often ends in overeating.

A key piece to staying healthy is making sure our bodies get the right nutrition. Food choices, whether they’re healthy or not, should not be used with the goal of altering our moods. But mindfully choosing food can be greatly beneficial to our overall health.

So what can this look like for you? Eating mindfully is really about making food choices separate from how you feel. And it’s about choosing food that will best prepare you for your own life.

Here are 3 tips to reduce emotional eating and be more mindful of food choices:

1. Make a weekly food plan. Plan ahead before heading to the grocery store and filling up your cart. Take a minute at home to think about how you can best fuel your body for the week. Jot down healthy meal and snack ideas. Then, buy the foods for those meals and snacks and limit items not on your list. We each have different nutritional needs, but incorporating a balance of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains into your diet is a great place to start.

2. Stay out of the kitchen when you are feeling emotional. Emotional eating is a response to emotional triggers, but food cannot help us cope if we’re feeling stressed, anxious or sad. Food does not have the power to solve any emotional issues. Quite often, we feel worse, not better after emotional eating.

3. Try exercise or another activity. What do yoga, walking, knitting or coloring have in common? They can all be used to help you cope with emotions in a positive way, which improves your overall health. Instead of turning to food as a coping method, look into activities that can be calming for you. More ideas include journaling, swimming, playing cards or listening to music.

If you have questions or concerns about your mental health or eating activity, check into the mental health services that are available near you. Our organization has care teams who can help at:

In addition, Park Nicollet’s Melrose Center offers a variety of treatment options for eating disorders for men, women and children.

About Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD

Gina Houmann is a Program Manager for several organization-wide nutrition programs at HealthPartners Institute. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Gina enjoys partnering with clinicians across HealthPartners and Park Nicollet to provide nutrition programs and resources to better serve patients. Previously, she provided nutrition counseling and education for patients at Melrose Center. In her free time, Gina enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, 5-year-old son and 2-year-old twin daughters.

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