Author: Jordanne Hellman MS RDN CSOWM LD
Nearly everyone uses food as a coping mechanism for different emotions. Some people eat when they are stressed or overwhelmed, while others eat out of boredom or habit. A lot of people use food as a reward when they feel like celebrating a success. All of these situations are examples of eating because of emotions, and not as the result of actual hunger. Emotional eaters usually take in a lot more calories than they need, often leading to weight gain. After bariatric surgery, the amount of food you can eat at one time is decreased, but the desire to eat to cope with emotions is not affected. Therefore, it is important to realize the difference between eating when you are physically hungry versus emotional eating, as well as what specifically triggers your cravings, so that you are successful with your weight loss goals after surgery.
Recognize Why You Eat
Once you figure out the root of your emotional eating, you can begin to devise a plan to overcome it. Basically, what triggers you to eat? A great way to find out is by keeping a food journal after surgery, including how you were feeling when you actually ate. Were you feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Are you mindlessly eating while watching TV? Do you consistently reward good behaviors with food? Journaling will give help you to see the pattern between what you eat and why you eat.
Develop a Strategy to Overcome Emotional Eating
So, you figured out which emotions or situations trigger you to eat. Now, how are you going to change this behavior? This is often difficult for people because food is something that our body relies on for survival. You can completely quit smoking cigarettes and live, but you can’t cut food out of your daily routine. Therefore, you have to find a behavior that can replace your pattern of overeating. Depending on your triggers, there are a variety of different ideas you can try.
- You eat when you are stressed. Try meditation or deep breathing techniques to help alleviate stress. Taking up walking or exercise can also help you to release stress, while also providing you with a good dose of physical activity.
- You’re bored. Find an activity you enjoy that does not involve food. Get back to doing hobbies that you love. Read a book, take up sewing, join a fitness group, or do puzzles with your family. There are a variety of activities you can take part in that do not involve eating.
- All celebrations revolve around food. Maybe you got a promotion, your kid got an A in class, or your dog finished obedience school. There are so many different occasions that are worth celebrating, but the celebration does not have to be centered on food. Take your child to the park or celebrate your work success with a relaxing massage. Find something that makes you happy and feels rewarding without all the unnecessary calories.
Overcoming emotional eating is not an easy feat. Bariatric surgery helps to control portion sizes, but it does not change the occurrence of emotional eating. Finding your triggers and coping with emotions without food can be a large adjustment, but you can overcome it. Always remember, your support team at My Bariatric Solutions is here to help you succeed.