How To Manage Emotional Eating After Weight Loss
Beyond Weight Loss
Weight loss is often the primary goal and the main motivation for overcoming emotional eating. As weight improves we’re inspired to continue through a sense of reward and accomplishment. Praise from others adds to the good feelings and spurs you on to reach your desired weight. But what about after you’ve hit your target weight? This can often be the most difficult time to manage emotional eating. External validation and internal reward can wane once a goal is achieved.
After weight loss, you need just as much help and guidance to stay the course and continue healthy eating habits. Managing emotional eating goes beyond a quick fix; it’s about establishing a new way of eating for life.
Long-Term Strategies To Manage Emotional Eating
Managing emotional eating after weight loss means finding long-term strategies to implement into your daily life. These are lifestyle changes that will help you stay on track for continued good health and recovery.
Mindfulness is about stepping back from your automatic thought processes; observing yourself and being present in the moment. Instead of going through the motions, cultivate a new way of being. Take the time to think about the foods you would normally purchase and habitually eat. Are they serving you, or acting as an emotional crux? Are they nutritious and providing you with the right type of fuel to sustain your mind and body?
We rarely consider what we’re eating or why. Be intentional about the foods you bring into your home. When you prepare and eat your food, do so with as few distractions as possible. Try to refrain from watching tv or scrolling through your phone when you eat. Take in the flavours, smells, and textures of your meals. Enjoy the activity of eating for what it is. This will help you savour the food, recognise when you’re full, and stay aware of any emotions that tug you towards the food cupboard.
Move Your Body
Often just hearing the word exercise is enough to put you off. It feels too difficult to start so we procrastinate and never begin. But exercise doesn’t have to be boring or difficult. Go dancing with friends on a regular basis. Swim in the sea or wild rivers. Join a walking group that tours sites of natural beauty. Make exercise simply about moving your body on a regular basis in a way that brings you joy. The point is to give yourself a great outlet for managing your emotions.
Moving your body releases feel-good hormones that naturally lift your mood. It also provides a great opportunity to stay busy, connect to others, and spend time outdoors; all of which boost your mood and prevent eating from boredom or habit. Moving your body will promote fitness whilst reducing stress and inflammation. You’ll find you have more energy and less physical and emotional pain. Your mind and body will feel stronger and better able to tackle everyday life.
Rest and Reset
Rest is so important for long-term health. Without adequate rest, your body cannot repair, renew, or reset. You must give yourself the chance to recover from food addiction and emotional eating by allowing your body to heal. Enough rest will also mean you’re not reaching for food due to fatigue or restlessness.
The best way to ensure you’re resting enough is by getting a good amount of sleep every night; aim for 8 hours per night. You may need a little more or less to wake feeling refreshed; do what feels good for you. Establish a good rhythm of sleep, attempt to fall asleep, and wake at the same time every day. This allows your body to set good circadian rhythms; essential for maintaining good physical health and mental wellbeing. Your body and mind will become better balanced; reducing mood swings and fluctuations in appetite.
Relax and Recharge
Give yourself regular time-outs. Take time to read in the sunshine, listen to your favourite music, or have a long soak in the bath. Giving yourself permission to relax is vital to managing emotional health. Time to decompress and unwind is necessary to relieve tension and stress that would normally have you reaching for comfort food.
Prioritising your need to recharge is an important part of self-care you cannot afford to ignore if you want to stay on track. Another critical aspect is how you talk to yourself. Be kind to yourself when you encounter a setback. Try not to admonish yourself for stumbles in your recovery. Be accepting of mistakes and learn from them; such moments will only guide you with greater insight and further aid your long term goals.
Spending time with positive people and building a community of support around yourself is necessary to manage emotional eating long-term. We’re social creatures who suffer when we attempt to cope with life’s complexities on our own.
Include your favourite people on your journey to great health. Let them know your goals and intentions, ask them to help you stay accountable. Contact them when you feel low; simply talking through your negative emotions will help you feel validated and alleviate strain. Go out of your way to inject fun and enjoyment into your life by organising activities with loved ones. You’ll simultaneously avert feelings of loneliness that would otherwise have you filling the void with food. By creating a network of people who can support, encourage, and be reliably honest, you’ll establish a dependable means to manage emotional eating.
Taking care of your health goes beyond short-term goals and instant rewards. When we eat to curb emotional upset, we may think we’re taking care of our needs; satisfying cravings, and rewarding ourselves after a difficult day. But true self-care takes time and intentional practices. It requires us to be honest with ourselves about what’s really best for us, not only in the immediate moment but for lifelong health. You deserve the investment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Bunmi Aboaba is a Recovery Coach specialising in Food Addiction, helping clients to achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals. Dr. Bunmi’s work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, addicted eating, and other associated patterns. Dr. Bunmi is also creator of the first Certified Food Addiction Certification to support nutritionists, personal trainers, dieticians, and clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results.