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Solving Emotional Eating

The Key to Solving Emotional Eating

Problem solving: it’s not just for 7th grade math class anymore. In this case, though, I’m not talking about figuring out what time the next train from Duluth will arrive and how many pounds of salami its passengers consumed along the way, instead, I’m talking about facing, dealing with, and solving problems before they cause you to end up face-down in a bag of French fries. In other words, let’s talk about emotional eating and how to prevent it.

Before I delve into the basics of problem-solving and why you need it if you want to nip emotional eating in the bud, I want you to know this: Emotional eating is not a bad thing and does not make you a bad person. It’s simply a way of coping with life when times get tough. Some people drop some serious cash buying a huge TV or a new pair of shoes, some people put in even crazier hours at the office, and some people use comfort foods to, well, comfort themselves.

But I know you want to stop! So, I’m here to help. In my opinion, problem solving is the key to avoiding emotional eating. If you can identify a problem and come up with solutions for dealing with it early enough in the game, then you’re not likely to need to turn to food later. Here are the basic steps to problem solving and how to use them to stop emotional eating before it starts.

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Identify the Problem

For those of you in the “I’ll just smile, everything’s fine!” camp, I’m looking at you. Sure, maybe you feel like you have to act jolly and content on the outside to please your finicky boss, but if you don’t acknowledge and identify the problem in your own mind, you’re asking for trouble. This can be as simple as stepping into your office, closing the door, and saying to yourself, “I am not feeling appreciated at work right now, and it’s making me angry/sad/frustrated.”

Come up with Potential Solutions

If you struggle with emotional eating, it’s likely that when problems crop up you don’t take as many steps as you could to solve the issue, and by the end of the day they’ve festered to the point where you need relief—and that’s when the trip to the drive through calls your name. In order to avoid this, as soon as you’ve identified the problem you have to come up with some alternative solutions. If you’re not feeling appreciated at work, what can you do to feel better? This can be in the short term, like going for a walk, sending an email to a friend, or watching a funny cat video, or it can be long term, like taking a class so you can get a promotion (and away from the boss who makes you feel like you don’t exist).

Do it!

Look through the possible solutions you’ve come up with and pick the one that makes the most sense. Then, you know, do it! No excuses. Go for that jog after work, step out of the office right now and call your spouse for support, pick up a DVD to watch after the kids go to bed.

Did it work?

A very important part of the problem solving process is looking back on the steps you took and seeing how they worked for you. This is not just a one-size-fits all solution, and it takes practice to get it right. Sometimes you may find yourself eating instead of dealing, or that what you tried just didn’t do it for you, and that’s okay. Keep trying.

Tip: If you’re the type that goes from frustrated to fried foods in three seconds flat, you might want to make up a list of possible solutions ahead of time that you can pull out anytime you get stressed. They may not help in every situation, but having a handy dandy list of ideas when you’re already feeling bad can be the difference between attempting to problem solve and eating.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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