There are dozens of reasons that people eat; being hungry is just one of them. We may eat because the clock tells us to, “it’s noon so I better get lunch”; or we smell something delicious and must have it; or we are out with friends and they all order cheesecake. Another common reason we eat is because we feel something uncomfortable or unsettling and we want to make that feeling go away.

Have you ever eaten when you were stressed or feeling emotional? At some point, you realized that eating something tasty may make unpleasant feelings go away and instead replace them with a feeling of fullness and/or pleasure. For example, eating chocolate may have made you feel good and allowed you to forget being stressed or anxious.

Reaching for food when emotions run high is a habit born out of mindless eating. It doesn’t matter that this avoidance only lasts a short time and is not a permanent fix. Since our busy lives consist of going from one activity to another without pause, the briefest moment of pleasure seems worth the potential long-term risk. This state of constant hurry can lead to mindlessness.

The good news is that you can replace one habit for another by slowing down and being mindful. Follow these steps to replace an unhealthy habit for a healthy one:

  1. Be Kind: Do not beat yourself up. You will have good moments and bad, but sticking with it will lead to success.
  2. Break it Up: When you feel like diving into a treat, set a timer for 5 minutes. A short break can help you make a healthy choice
  3. Write it Down: Try to discover what feelings trigger your emotional eating. Take a moment to pause before you eat to ask yourself what you are feeling. Keep a food journal and write down those feelings.
  4. Change your Focus: If the reason for eating is not hunger, find another activity that will shift your attention. Take time to discover what your ‘go-to’ solutions are. Go for a walk, take a bath, listen to music or dance, watch a VHPGO exercise video. It takes time (about 4 weeks) to create a new habit so stick with it. You are worth it!
  5. Connect: Sometimes all we are missing is that sense of connection. Hanging out with friends or talking to them on the phone may very well be what you need to become more mindful.