Eating is the ultimate occasion. Whether it’s cake on our birthdays or a feast on holiday, food has become the ultimate symbol of celebration. However, is every day a holiday?

Each day we give ourselves an excuse to eat the cheat food. “I’m sad, so I’ll eat chocolate, I’m in a rush, so I’ll grab French fries, or I’m bored, so I’ll eat anything in sight.”

Controlling our emotions coincides with controlling what we eat. We have to train our bodies to adjust to our cravings. The answer is different for everyone.

Why do we eat emotionally and how do we stop? 

The key is not to channel personal negativity into our stomachs. Just because you’re having a bad day, don’t take it out on your body. Although you may think it fills your heart, it’s just a temporary fix. In reality, the junk food drags down your mood even further. To get a mood booster, we have to feed our minds with fuel such as fruits and vegetables.

We must deter ourselves from giving into our emotions. Often, when people are sad they want to feel better with a good meal, but do you really feel better in a so-called food coma? Some swear that small moment of great joy on your taste buds is worth all the calories and bellyaches.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. If I must have whatever I’m craving, I’ll use portion control. I’ve shifted my mind to include fruit with every square of chocolate and veggies with every starch.

Ease into healthy eating.

When we become emotional, we might relapse completely.

Try this: next time when you’re bored, look up a favorite or desired healthy one cooked meal. Boredom is one of the top reasons people overeat. Instead of filling the time with eating, fill the time with cooking.

For example, one of my easiest and tastiest recipes: feta cheese peppers.

Only two ingredients, feta, and peppers. Cut the peppers along the length and remove all seeds and place on a baking sheet cut side up. So they look like little boats. Next, Put the oven on 200 Celsius. Place the crumbled feta cheese inside the pepper boats, and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Just because we are aiming for a healthier dish does not mean we have to give up all wants like cheese. Feta is a great source of calcium and super tasty.

Although in this recipe we picked food that is easy to cook, what about when we are out to eat?

Making conscious health choices when we order out is crucial. Often, people eat out when they want a break, to relax, and indulge in good food. However, most portion sizes are getting too big, meals are made with too many fats, and restaurants only care about taste.

How do we eat healthy when we’re out?

When you’re out to eat it is all about substitution. Pick the right sides. Getting the chicken breast is perfect but pick mash potatoes instead of French fries, or grilled asparagus instead of buttered corn.

Now, most cities and towns have healthy quick places to eat. In other words, create your-own-bowls and salads are replacing “would you like fries with that?”

The price point is around the same, and you get much better and healthier food. For example, The Good Life Eatery. There are three locations scattered around London. My favorite meal there is the goodness bowl. Inside it has tomato Chickpeas, roasted quinoa falafels, pea & kale dip, Malibu shred with turmeric dressing, ½ avocado with omega seeds, and salsa Hermosa.

If you can’t change the situation, change your reaction.

With every emotion, there is always a proper reaction. Training our bodies to crave good foods instead of unhealthy foods when we are sad, mad or indifferent is the best way to assure healthy emotional eating.

Meditation goes a long way. It may sound a bit childish but counting to ten isn’t always a bad idea. Often, when we are mad or sad, we let our impulses take over our body. Even though it is hard to change those impulsive reactions, by taking a step back and analyzing the situation, we can channel positivity.

For instance, let’s say you’ve had a horrible day at work and all you’ve had time to eat was a small bag of pretzels and a few peanuts. You leave work at 5 pm, and your body is craving fried chicken and fries.

Take the time to consider that you haven’t eaten all day, and your body needs fuel. Even though the french fries would fill you, and the fried chicken will taste really good, won’t you wake up in the morning with a bellyache? And then, won’t that stomach-ache make you feel sluggish and like you don’t want to eat? As a result, you’ll end up just eating a few pretzels and nuts again. It’s a vicious cycle.

However, let’s say you ate a salad with grilled chicken and veggies. You’ll fall asleep feeling full yet happy. Then the next morning, you’ll want to wake up and eat eggs, maybe a smoothie, or some avocado toast.

Break the cycle.

Letting our bodies know that even if our mind is unwell, we will still take care of them. Try meal planning. It’s been proved that when the brain is on an organized schedule, and our bodies are on a food schedule, we will feel more productive and balanced.

Therefore, by altering our eating schedules, our bodies will automatically crave certain foods at certain times.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a diet, and it can be fun. Each week when you buy groceries, think of a decent meal that you can cook in bulk.

Attached below are articles related to meal planning and cooking. If you’re a bored cook and if you’re mad or sad, remember your brain is already hurting, don’t take it out on your body too!

Dimple Thakrar

Dimple Thakrar

Dimple Thakrar is a registered dietitian with over 22 years NHS experience. Dimple is a well-known and respected consultant spokesperson for the media and the British Dietetic Association (BDA), often providing insights and advice on television, radio and in newspapers. Dimple is passionate about helping people change their relationship with food and their bodies for life. Helping people to say "No" to ill-health through diet, taking back control of their body, health, and diet. You can find out more on her website website and her Facebook page.

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