Ever been eating and think, “Why am I eating? I’m not even hungry.” This thought then typically turns to guilt and you start to wonder how to avoid comfort eating.
Because that’s what you realize you’re doing, right? You had a bad day or maybe a tough week. Heck, your whole year may have sucked and you’re starting to realize that you’re eating more when you’re not necessarily hungrier.
Comfort eating is actually more common than you might think and in fact, a lot of people that comfort eat, don’t even know that they’re comfort eating (sometimes known as bored eating). They’re just eating to eat.
There’s lots of different reasons that you might be comfort eating that can range from (but aren’t limited to): boredom, depression, chemical imbalances, etc.
The first step in overcoming comfort eating is realizing when you have an issue with comfort eating. So… how can you tell?
If you ever eat to make yourself ‘feel better’ and I’m not talking about killing that hunger pain, I’m talking about eating because you feel sad or eating a sandwich will make your brain feel better; you might be comfort eating.
Boredom is a pretty easy one to ID, right? If you’re bored, and you go grab a snack to curb that boredom… Simple, right?
This is where I give you the whole schpeel of if you believe you have depression or a chemical imbalance, go see your doctor and get some professional help. There is truly no shame in it. I’m not a doc and I can only provide logical, real life examples, this isn’t medical advice!
That said, let’s chat about how to overcome comfort eating
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #1- Ask yourself if you really are hungry
Let’s make sure you’re actually hungry before you eat. Whatcha think? That’s a ground breaking idea I think.
Okay, I’m kidding. But let’s be serious a minute.
While this tip may sound very logical and almost “duh”, it’s actually a very real thing that happens.
There are many girls that I have talked with that have said that they eat simply to eat.
I have a client that she is working to lose some weight and when we got to the point of working on her overall diet, she found that she would often eat simply out of habit or the need of something to do.
She wasn’t eating bad food either, she would eat simply to eat and give her mouth and hands something to do and it ended up that she was eating around 2,500 per day on average.
Which, for a gal trying to lose weight, is way over the mark!
When she cut out her ‘snacks simply to snack’ and planned her snacks, she lost almost 2 pounds in a week; and no, it wasn’t water weight!
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #2 – Have good snacks on hand
My story that closed out the last tip really ties in well to having good snacks on hand as well as planning your snacks.
Plan out when you are going to have your snacks and prepare the ahead of time. You don’t have to make a week’s worth of snacks on Sunday nights, just make your snacks the night before and have them ready for the next day and plan the times you’re going to eat them.
Here’s an extra tip and this is just for free. If you tend to forget to eat, which, believe it or not, I do forget sometimes, I put reminders in my phone of “hey! It’s snack time!”
I mean, who doesn’t want to be reminded to EAT, right?
My days go by so fast and I know that yours do too, that if I didn’t have a plan and worked that plan, I would look up and realize oh man, it’s 1:30 and I’ve had my workouts, a morning of clients, picked my son up from school and I haven’t even had my post workout protein shake let alone a meal.
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #3 – Clear Out Bad Snacks
And no, I don’t mean eat all of them to get them out of your cupboard. I mean clean them out. Throw them away.
Allow me to let you in on a little secret…
I have no self-control in regards to sweets such as cookies or cake, etc. Candy? I can leave that. But indulgent sweets I don’t.
Which is why I don’t keep anything of the sort in my house because my husband doesn’t have good self-control on them either and we don’t want it in the house.
Now, to be clear, it is totally fine to have a sweet on the occasion for a treat and just part of healthy living, right? It’s when those sort of things are our go to snacks that it becomes a problem.
The answer truly is simple.
Do. Not. Buy. It.
Just don’t buy it to keep it in your house.
If it’s treat night and you want to have a treat, go get a treat, but buy a portion of the sweet of your choice, not the entire batch. Make sense? Awesome. Let’s move on.
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #4 – Find a Hobby
This one really ties into tip #1 of making sure you’re hungry before you eat. IF you’re truly eating because you are bored and not hungry, then it’s time to find a hobby.
Seriously. It’s time to find a hobby and do something instead of eating.
When you stop eating because you’re bored and eat for fuel, your entire relationship with food will change for the better.
Healthy foods and good snacks are not boring, nor do they have to be tasteless. They just don’t.
Get out from in front of Netlix, put down the snack from boredom and go DO something. Don’t let life pass you by. This leads me to tip #5
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #5 – Go for a Walk/Run/Go to the Gym/Get Outside
Get off your bum and go do something.
When you’re feeling the need to eat because you’re either bored, or you just want to ‘feel better’, it’s time to get out the door and go do something.
Go for a walk, head to the gym, heck, go shopping for Pete’s sake. Just DO something. Get active.
Getting active will make you hungry for real which is then when you can have your planned snackaroos.
Believe me. If you’re just feeling a little bummed and not feeling too hot, go for a walk around the block. The fresh air and breeze in your face will make you feel better and you’ll be ready to move on about your day.
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #6 – Sleep
Ah sleep. I’m telling ya, sleep is an amazing thing.
It’s story time, ready?
When I was a young child, I hated naps. I didn’t want to take naps and I fought taking naps harder than was necessary.
Now? I love naps. It used to be, the longer the nap the better. Now, if I can get myself to relax for 20-30 minutes right after lunch, it is truly incredible how much better I feel that afternoon.
I don’t feel the need to snack outside of my normal re-fuel and my overall attitude is better.
Now, while not everyone can grab that 20 minute pause, and believe me, I can’t do that every day, but I do try to do it once a week, it makes a huge difference.
Here’s what to do instead – go to bed earlier.
Oh yeah. I went there and you need to go there with me, so follow the bouncing ball.
Go to bed 30 minutes earlier and allow yourself to relax.
Those dishes that you didn’t get done after dinner are not going cause the house to burn down or anything and it really will be okay if those last 2 things on your checklist don’t get done.
Get some sleep.
This allows the chemicals in your brain to reset and you can think more clearly and more logically. This in turn allows you to make great decisions about your food, snacks, and other daily needs.
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip #7 – Remove stressers
While there are some things that you can actually get rid of in your life, there are a lot of things that we allow ourselves to stress out about that don’t really need to be stressed about!
Which tends to lead to stress eating (AKA- comfort eating). Ever felt stressed and like “ugh I could use a Coke.” Or wine, or a snack or whatever.
That is exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s time to clean off the plate, sister. Don’t give me those garbage excuses that you can’t. Yep, you can.
I used to think that I couldn’t remove things from my plate or say “no” to people. But when I realized I could clean off my plate, and I could kindly but firmly tell people, no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that; it’s one of the most liberating feelings in the world.
Much less stress and much less stress eating.
Avoiding Comfort Eating Tip # 8 – Keeping a Food Diary
Keeping a food diary is an awesome way to see what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.
Remember my sweet client that thought she was eating around 1500-1800 calories and thought she was in a calorie deficit to lose weight and turns out she was consistently eating 2500 calories?
How’d she figure that out? She kept a food log!
Do you have to keep a food log forever? Not necessarily, no. But a lot of girls keep a pretty strict food log while they’re trying to lose weight and then once they hit maintenance phase, they keep a more loose log just to make sure they’re keeping within a good calorie range.
So why a food log to combat comfort eating?
Well, for a lot of girls, when you see how many calories you’re consuming and how those extra calories can have adverse reactions to your fitness goals, it really curbs that habit of eating for comfort or because you’re bored.
Yep, totally serious. Give it a try! Grab a free app like MyFitnessPal to start tracking. It’s super duper easy and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up liking to track your calories ?
One last tip on if you decide to keep a food diary. Grab an easy to use, FREE app and for the love of cheese puffs, do not obsess over what you eat. Keep track of it and move on.
Use it as information to get you to your goals and do not let it define you.
I do think that one more point of clarification is important here – you’re probably not going to need all 8 of these tips to stop the comfort/boredom eating. I’d be super surprised if you do!
But, you might need a few of these to adjust some areas so you can get to where you want to go.
Always remember that food is just that. Food. Food is fuel for your body so make sure what you’re putting in is good and that you’re not overfilling your tank!
You don’t overfill your car with gas, right? Of course not! Same goes for your body.
Properly fuel and you’ll feel better than you ever have. I know it has worked for me for years and has worked for so many of my girls.
You’ve got this! I believe in you.