Basic Strategies for Managing the Urge to Eat

The suggestions below will not necessarily remove your urges (sorry), but will help you to manage them more effectively and with greater emotional comfort.  These strategies have been cornerstones in my own recovery; I wouldn’t consider spending a day without any of them, and I encourage you to do the same. 

1. Each time you’re considering eating, stop to ask yourself if you’re really physically hungry or just have the desire to distract or comfort yourself with eating.  If you can’t tell, it’s almost certainly just a desire to eat, rather than a need for food. 

2. If you’re truly hungry, decide what and how much to eat by asking what (and how much of it) would feel good in your stomach right now.  This helps you to get in synch with your body’s fuel needs rather than getting distracted by what looks/smells/seems good at the moment, or what happens to have just appeared in front of you.   

3. If you suspect that you aren’t really hungry but just want to eat anyway, ask yourself if you can think of something else you could do right now that might help you feel better (i.e., do a small task, take a walk, call a friend, run some errands, listen to music).  Physical activity of any kind is an excellent way to get yourself redirected when necessary.

4. Choose real, whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, lean meats) as much of the time as possible.  This will reduce food cravings while increasing your general sense of well-being and balance.

5. Exercise daily for stress management and mood management -- if you’re less stressed and depressed, you’ll have less need to comfort yourself with food.  Plus, of course, you’ll be boosting your rate of calorie burn and contributing to your physical health in too many ways to list here.

6. Make sure your life always includes ways other than food to enjoy yourself and find satisfaction.  If you don’t, food will remain overly important and impossible to resist.  Having a variety of hobbies and ways to stay physically active goes a long way toward helping you keep food in its proper perspective.

7. Gently remind yourself as necessary that, “It’s just food.”  The only problem food can truly fix is physical hunger – using it for anything else just wastes time, makes you bigger, and wrecks what’s left of your self-esteem. 

Copyright © 2008, Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW.  All rights reserved.


Related articles:

Are You a Compulsive Eater?  Test Yourself and See...

Compulsive Eating and How I Treat It

Emotional Eating: The Battle Within   
Essential Truths about Your Body
Fat: Important New Findings
Loving Each Other to Death with Food

Raising Kids to be Emotionally Balanced with Food  

Risk Management: The Overlooked Key to Finding Peace with Food

Your Weight May Not be the Problem 

Self-Help for Intense Anxiety 

When is It Time to Consider Psychotherapy? 

Depression Series, Part One: Depression -- Myths and Facts


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