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Emotional eater? This is how you change your relationship to food

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Do you tend to grab a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps if you’re feeling bad, because it has a nice numbing effect – ignoring what your body really needs? 

According to diet coach Eve Lahijani, who has been an emotional eater for a long time, we need to change our relationship to food. After years of emotional eating, she wanted to get rid of her obsession with (unhealthy) food. She took several courses to get ‘better’ and made it her mission to help others do the same. 

According to Eve, you can change your own relationship to food following these three simple steps: 

1 Reconnect to hunger 

It’s lunch time, you’re watching a movie, you’re happy, you’re sad, you don’t want to throw away any leftovers: there are lots and lots of reasons to eat. At the same time, we tend to repress our hunger. Because we’re angry, because no one else is eating, because it’s too early, because we’re busy – etcetera. Lahijani encourages you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Duh, you’re thinking? Sure, it sounds obvious. But you probably find yourself regularly eating things when you’re not really hungry.

To prevent yourself from doing that, you can rate your hunger or the extent to which you’re full. 0 means you’re starving, 10 means you’re stuffed. Eat something when you start feeling hungry – say, a 3 or 4. Stop eating when you’re full, but not too full – like a 6 or 7. Lahijani says you shouldn’t wait until you’re very hungry, because that’s when you tend to make unhealthy choices. Besides, if you’re a little bit hungry, you eat more slowly, you don’t tend to eat too much and you enjoy the food more. You eat more mindfully. 

2 Feed your body with what it’s craving 

If you’re dieting, you’re only feeding your body with nutritions that are ‘approved’. If you feel like snacking, you go for food that’s prohibited. If you want to change your relationship to food, you need to break this pattern. Lahijani says that’s only possible by feeding your body with the food it’s really craving. 

She discovered that most of the time, her body wasn’t craving junkfood. When she stopped feeling guilty about eating, and didn’t think about what was ‘approved’ or ‘forbidden’, she discovered she preferred nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables. 

3 Don’t use food as a reward or punishment 

If you’re good, you get candy. If you don’t finish your meal, you can’t have dessert. Many of us learned at a very young age that food serves as punishment or reward. There’s nothing wrong with having cake to celebrate, but you might want to study your association with food. A birthday with healthy snacks isn’t necessarily less fun, going to see a movie is very well possible without an XL popcorn and a big coke.