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Byline: with Dr Ellie Milby

DO YOU eat when you're not hungry? Do you find yourself devouring a tub of ice cream when you're upset or raiding the cupboards for treats when you're stressed or bored? If so, you have experienced emotional eating.

Emotional eating is eating to make ourselves feel better. The problem is that emotional needs can't be satisfied with food. Comfort food provides a short-term boost but it often ends up making you feel worse when guilt kicks in and you beat yourself up for overeating.

In this way it's easy to get stuck in a vicious cycle where the underlying emotional issue is never addressed.

The first step to overcoming emotional eating is recognising your triggers. Try keeping a food and mood diary. Whenever you have an urge to comfort eat take a minute to understand what's going on.

Write down what you were doing, feeling and thinking when you had the craving.

Often patterns will emerge, for example, eating after an argument, when you have negative thoughts about yourself or when you're under pressure at work. Once you know your triggers you can deal with cravings differently.

The next step is to take control over your cravings. When a craving strikes rate its strength from 1-100 in your diary.

Now wait five minutes and rate it again - has it increased, reduced or stayed the same? Usually cravings reduce with time showing that you can control them.

Challenge yourself to gradually increase the amount of time you wait until your craving has substantially reduced.

Understanding your eating habits and pausing before giving in to cravings gives you the opportunity to manage your emotions in healthier ways.

Try these alternative coping strategies to beat emotional eating: Anxiety - Go for a |brisk walk; Loneliness - Ring a |friend for a chat; Boredom - Research a |new hobby online; Anger - Sing and |dance to your favourite song; Low self-esteem - |Write a list of your five best qualities.

Dr Ellie Milby |is a counselling psychologist, researcher and mental health writer. In her weekly column she writes about a range of mental health issues. You can follow her on Twitter @DRELLIEM

No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2014
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