Food has a tendency to play huge tricks on our minds. I often find myself eating and eating even when my body isn’t physically hungry. When I am sad, I eat. When I am happy, I eat. When I am stressed (which happens often – hi, I’m a college student), I eat. When I am bored, I eat. When I am studying or watching TV, it is essential to have a snack nearby.

If you haven’t already noticed, I am what many would call an emotional eater. I’m pretty sure that if you look up “emotional eater”, the dictionary will show my picture. Ha-ha.

In many cases it is okay to eat based on emotions. I mean, we celebrate everything from birthdays to winning a big game with awesome meals. But it can be taken too far.

I have a habit of eating based on the way I feel emotionally rather than the way I feel physically. And usually, I’m eating something I’ve baked.

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My number one rule when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, is to never eat or do anything you don’t want to. I will never make myself eat certain healthy foods just because they are “good for me” if I don’t like the way they taste. The problem is that I use this rule to justify the emotional eating habits I practice all too often. I know better, though.

I know that with my emotions out of check, I shouldn’t always turn to my favorite foods and eat them in excessive amounts. I know I shouldn’t eat three frosted sugar cookies when I am having a bad day or four helpings of leftover mashed potatoes because I feel stressed. That isn’t good for my body. Yet, I often find myself doing these things over and over in a vicious cycle.

One thing is for certain: we are all works in progress, and we will never be perfect. I am learning to accept the fact that I may never be able to truly escape emotional eating – and that is okay. What I am working on, though, is controlling it. Addiction is partly psychological, and I’m addicted to using food to soothe my emotions.

 Here is the proposal I have written to myself:

I, Caitlin, am choosing to eat healthier foods when I feel emotional eating creep in. I am working on controlling portions and not eating in excessive amounts as a result of my rampant emotions. I will not eat “just to eat because I am bored”. I will find other ways to distract myself that do not harm my body, but help it. I will go for a walk, run, do my favorite exercises, read a book, or play basketball. I will relieve my stress through positive coping mechanisms. I will be mentally strong! I know I have the ability to control anything about myself if I really work at it. I will use my negative and positive emotions as opportunities to better myself. I know my body is worth it. It’s the only one I get.

So, what will you do? Here are five ideas you can try for yourself when emotional eating tries to creep its way in.

Go for a walk/run.

Walking relieves the mind of stress. It introduces a sense of serenity that our bodies need when they feel overwhelmed. If you you’d rather sweat it out a little more, let all of your emotions out through a good run. This works for me. Not only does it distract me, but it helps me realize what a determined, strong person I am. I prefer running at sunset.

Do something new.

Try something you have never done before. Put all of your focus and attention on a new task or hobby and you won’t be thinking about your emotions or food. Maybe you want to try yoga, do something crafty, or go on a hike nearby. Be spontaneous and just go do it!

Surround yourself with “your people”.

There’s nothing that a girls’ day or guys’ night can’t fix. Hanging out with your peeps is bound to aid in overcoming a stressful situation or bad day. Being with the people you love distracts you from the demands of everyday life and lets you focus on what makes life so good. Can’t hang out with your loved ones right now? Give someone a call. It helps!

A photo posted by Caitlin Whitmire () on

Read a book.

Get lost in a book and take yourself to another place. Whether it is fitness-related nonfiction, a sappy love story, or a gripping crime thriller, books distract us from the problems in our own lives. They serve as an escape that’s much healthier than a sleeve of Oreos.

Get outdoors.

This is my favorite one. A little sunshine and vitamin D work wonders on a bad mood. Getting outside instead of locking yourself indoors with lots of junk food will show you that there is a lot to the world outside of your stress. Go explore a new beautiful location or simply enjoy the beauty of your college campus. You will find peace if you truly soak in your surroundings. 

A photo posted by Caitlin Whitmire () on

You can choose to overcome your emotional eating habit. Rather than soothing yourself with food, try distracting yourself with exercise or other productive activities and talking to the people you care about. Not only will this contribute to your physical strength and wellness, but it will enhance to your mental strength and wellness. Your body will certainly thank you for not filling it with sugary foods, and your mind will thank you for finding healthier outlets for your emotions.

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About The Author

Caitlin is a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas studying Dietetics. She is from a little town in Arkansas called Strawberry. Caitlin is in the process of becoming Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Certified. She enjoys cooking, baking, and anything outdoors. Instagram: healthycait

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