Overindulgent holidays, eating out, super-sized brunch, one too many burgers washed down with your drink of choice, sweets and an oh-so predictable side of guilt…It’s all good though, because Monday is the day your healthy lifestyle begins, for good, game on! You are determined, focused, excited, it’s the new you! This won’t be like last time! Right?

Only it will be because all it takes is a few days (at most) for the plan to come crashing down…

Why restricting backfires

If you have a history of dieting or struggling with food, you have probably developed some ‘all-or-nothing’ ways of thinking. The problem with extremes is that you are either on a diet or you’re over-indulging. You’re either doing really well or you’ve gone completely off track. You’re either obsessing with the food you can’t have or feeling guilty about the food you did have. It’s a Dieting Cycle of Helplessness. Study after study have shown that ‘psychological deprivation, induced by short periods of caloric restriction, is enough to trigger overeating and increase hunger.’ To top it all, and perhaps most importantly, many of us eat emotionally!

What’s the deal with emotional eating?

Emotional eating is one of the main reasons people regain weight after a diet. It makes sense, if you think about it. Most of us now know that regular overeating and being overweight go hand in hand. We can also identify more or less accurately what’s good for us (wholefoods, vegetables, etc) and what’s not so good (refined sugars, highly processed foods, etc). And yet, we go straight for the biscuits at work, the extra serving(s) of birthday cakes and choose to order dessert even when we feel full. You can’t seem to stop bingeing…

It’s because eating can be soothing, distracting or numbing sometimes. But the more we use food as a coping mechanism or reward, the stronger the emotional eating habit becomes .

What’s the solution?

1.    Find your patterns

This is such an important part of the process: When do you eat emotionally? Where do you eat? What do you eat? How do you feel before you emotionally eat?

2.    Be realistic

Your relationship with food did not happen over night. It will take a little time to get a true understanding of your eating MO and, ultimately, to change it for the better. This is one of those times where you really need to take it one day at a time.

3. Practice practice

Whether we like it or not, we are creatures of habits. And in the same way we have wired our brain and body to act on our urges to eat for comfort, we can re-condition ourselves to create alternative habits to feel good. If I did it, so can you!

For more insights, strategies and tips to overcome emotional eating, check out my book STUFFED: how to feel so good about yourself you won’t have room for cake or sign up for my free e-course here.