You know how you create a New Year’s resolution to eat better but then as the year goes on, the stress eating picks up and you can’t resist the siren call of sweets?
There is a good reason this happens to you, and it has nothing to do with willpower.
It’s emotional eating! In other words, using food to numb discomfort or as a primary source of pleasure and self-care in your life.
If you are an emotional eater, doing what you’ve always done before when it comes to goals for the New Year isn’t going to work.
Here’s what you need to do instead…
#1: Focus on Emotional Health First
Using food to numb your emotions is often related to a history of trauma or emotional overwhelm in your daily life. As an emotional eater, the way you are using food has little to do with food itself.
As one woman recently shared with me, “I am embarrassed that I still can’t control my cravings, especially at my age when I should be more sensible about the way I eat, and I should have more self-control. I know the risks of diabetes and other diseases but the craving I have overrides everything else all the time.”
Those cravings are driven by emotions and stress hormones, so learning to care for your emotions and manage stress is the best place to start when trying to control cravings.
Some ways to prioritize your emotional health are to commit to journaling or find a trauma-informed counselor.
#2: Choose Self-Compassion Over Self-Criticism
Changing your behaviors is hard, and it becomes all the more difficult when you mentally beat yourself up. Changing all or nothing thinking and other mindset shifts can set you up for sustainable success.
One way you can focus on self-compassion over self-criticism is to begin tracking your wins and partial-successes in your health journey.
#3: Prioritize Behaviors That Are in Your Control
It’s better to create goals around behaviors that are in your control, rather than outcomes that are out of your control like specific lab values (like blood sugar) or pounds lost.
I also recommend staying away from creating goals around avoidance or restriction like “stop eating sugar.” Biologically you end up motivating yourself to do the restricted thing when you feel scarcity.
Examples of behaviors you can focus on are walks taken or servings of vegetables eaten.
#4: Whatever You Do, DON’T Go on a Diet
If you’re using food to manage your emotions, restricting food will be taking away your main coping mechanism. It’s not a very nice thing to do to yourself, and it’s just not going to work if you haven’t healed your emotional eating.
The woman I mentioned above recently told me, “I join weightwatchers every year and never stick to it, and never lose more than 1-2 lbs. And as soon as I lose a couple of pounds I start overeating again.” Dieting isn’t the answer to emotional eating.
You can achieve peace and freedom with food by following my roadmap: You’re Done Dieting, But Still Want to Heal Emotional Eating.
Do you create New Year’s Resolutions? If so, are there any that have worked for you over the years? Do you see yourself as an emotional eater? Can you see how caring for your emotions and mind rather than restricting food will be helpful?