Make long-term food decisions
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology explored the influence of mood on food choice. Across four experiments, researchers analyzed the impact of positive and negative mood cues, with findings that will make you a believer in the power of positive thinking. According to the study, “a positive mood increases the salience of long-term goals such as health, leading to a greater preference for healthy foods overindulgent foods.” Instead of using food as a source of in-the-moment distraction, positive thinking lets us play the long game in our daily food choice. We are able to focus on the impact that a healthy food choice has on our long-term well-being, and we’re satisfied by it. Conversely, negative mood cues hamstring that focus, and we crave indulgent foods as a means of immediate mood management. Not only that, but when we’re in this state, we eat the indulgent options to excess. The bottom line? Keeping your health front of mind can go a long way in preventing a bad mood food binge. Keep from faltering with these 7 science-backed tips to stop your strongest food cravings.
Make mindfulness work for you
In a 2017 study examining mindfulness as a tool to reduce emotional eating, researchers confirmed that the approach leads to a significant reduction in emotional eating behavior. Study co-author Carl Fulwiler, MD, Ph.D., who also serves as medical director for the UMASS Center for Mindfulness, cites the concept of disinhibition, and our ability to control it, as a key driver in the prevention of emotion-driven eating. “At its core, mindfulness is about being more aware of our emotions, and understanding how they influence our thinking and behavior,” Fulwiler says. “When applied to weight loss and weight maintenance, it can have a profound impact on an individual’s long-term success.” Fulwiler’s exploratory research reinforces earlier findings from a study by Brown University researchers about disinhibition related to eating behavior. “What they showed pretty convincingly is that the internal component, or what we think, has much more to do with long-term weight control than external factors such as office social situations.” That’s welcome news for those who work in environments where tempting food cues are unavoidable. It can also be an effective tactic in curbing stress induced splurges.
Reduce triggers of emotional eating
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Whether you love or loathe what you do, it’s undeniable that stress and work go hand in hand. “The combination of food being a low involvement choice and a stressful environment is what propels us select something indulgent—it makes us feel good,” Brumberg says. But how to recognize and stop the influence of stress on food choice? According to David Adler, MD, senior scientist for The Center for Health Solutions and Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine, one solution is cognitive behavior redirection. “First and foremost, you have to be aware of your automated response to stress, which manifests itself in numerous ways, including eating,” he says. “If you are feeling upset and eating is something you find helpful, you’ll keep doing it.” And you’ll likely continue feeding the stress beast until you shift that automated response to a healthier alternative. Believe it or not, a single raisin can be all it takes to exert control over our automated response to overindulge. “One of the simplest solutions is to make a list, where the left-hand column lists the positive things you can do to manage that in the moment stress, and the right lists negative alternatives,” he says. Not only will the action have absolved you of any knee-jerk induced munchies, but it can also lead to long-term positive change with regard to your default eating behaviors. Here are 7 mind tricks you can use to prevent emotional eating.