How to Manage Emotional Eating

People use different coping strategies when dealing with stress and other overwhelming emotions. Some people use substances such as drugs and alcohol, some smoke cigarettes, and some charge a lot of money to their credit card. And then there are those people who take comfort in their favorite foods.

Emotional eating often leads to weight gain and the development of health issues such as type two diabetes and high blood pressure. If left unchecked, emotional eating can lead to a life-long reliance on eating as a coping mechanism.

If you or someone you love is an emotional eater, becoming more mindful of eating is how you can manage your food issues. Here are some ways to become a more mindful eater:

Keep a Food Journal

Most emotional eaters are completely unaware of the kind or amount of food they eat on a daily or weekly basis. It’s important to start tracking what you consume as well as how much so you can recognize the real issue you may be having. This is not an exercise in harshly judging yourself, it’s simply so you can recognize the link between your emotions and eating habits.

For instance, you may see that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty okay days, but Thursday was when you got yelled at while you were at work and also got a speeding ticket, and ALSO ate fast food for lunch and dinner and ate almost a gallon of ice cream. Once you see this pattern over and over, that you tend to eat on those days you are stressed, angry, sad, etc., you will be able to start making positive changes.

Make Portions

When we eat emotionally, we don’t stop to think about the amount of food we are eating, we just shove it in as quickly as possible so those carbs can start making us feel better. The next time you find yourself eating based on your emotions, try and catch yourself and meter out a fair-sized portion. For instance, don’t sit in front of the TV with an entire bag of potato chips, take out a small bowl’s worth and put the rest away.

Try Not to Eat Alone

When we are alone, we can eat with abandon. But when we eat with others, we tend to have more awareness about what and how much we put in our mouths. When your day is stressful, instead of going out to lunch by yourself, where you’re apt to hit 2-3 drive-throughs, invite some other people out. This may help you to use more self-control.

These are just a few of the ways you can begin to recognize your emotional eating and gain control over your food choices. If you would like to speak to someone about the emotions you are dealing with and learn healthier coping strategies, please be in touch. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

5 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You

It’s tough trying to get your teen to talk. Science has shown that the teenager’s brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason, and to think before we act. As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world; simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes out of their control.

For all of these reasons and more, it can be difficult to find ways to talk to your teen, or to get them to talk to you. Although it’s difficult, it’s not impossible; read on to find five ways to get your teenager to talk to you.

Learn to Listen

Take the time to listen to your teenager when they want to talk. Instead of saying you’ll talk to them later, step away from what you’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Don’t talk, interrupt or be quick to offer advice; just listen. Kids have thoughts and experiences that their parents don’t know about, and the best time to listen to them is when they’re asking to talk to you.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

As you listen to your teen, your knee jerk response may be to quickly resolve their issue, offer advice or maybe even dismiss their complaints or opinions. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes; think about how you would feel if your spouse responded to you the way you respond to them.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you. They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Ask Specific Questions

Ask your teen specific questions rather than general “how was your day?” questions. Ask questions about a friend you know by name. Ask about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like. Ask open ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. One of the worst times to talk to kids is after school. Just like you do after work, they need wind-down time. Instead, ask questions around the dinner table. It’s casual, and there’s no pressure for eye contact. The car is another great place to talk to your teen (unless their friends are in the back seat); they feel more comfortable because you’re not looking at them.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenager and need some help and guidance, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.