Emotional eating and binge eating aren’t things that happen when you’re sad and reaching for the ice cream; in fact, over 2.8 million Americans suffer from binge eating disorder. While this disorder has a number of causes, emotional eating is one that can severely impact a person’s ability to follow a healthy diet. Emotional eating also deters people from keeping off the weight they’ve lost.
Z Living's newest original unscripted series The Big Fat Truth (premiering June 11) is on a mission to find some big fat truths about weight loss — starting with why so many people regain weight they've lost. For many of the contestants — which include teachers, chefs, nurses, and diabetics — eating is just as much of an emotional problem as it is a physical one.
On the premiere episode, the show's creator and host, JD Roth (below), brings in six former contestants from The Biggest Loser.
The six collectively lost 630 lbs. on the show, but then regained the weight (and more!). Roth plans to dig deep to the emotional core of their eating to find out why.
As Roth says, “the big fat truth is that the secret to weight loss is what's in your head." A lot of our unhealthy eating habits are a result of emotional eating or binge eating, which is — you guessed it — when you eat to soothe your feelings rather than your physical hunger.
The HALT Method
So how can we learn not to emotionally eat? It all starts with being able to identify when we are physically hungry versus when we are emotionally hungry. One helpful way to avoid eating junk food or binge eating is to use the HALT method: ask yourself if you are really Hungry ... or if you’re just Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
Are you REALLY hungry?
It sounds simple, but it can be hard to get to the bottom of whether your hunger is emotional or physical. The first step is checking in with yourself: are you hungry? When did you last eat? What are you craving right now and why? If you’re craving a specific unhealthy food, chances are that you’re craving comfort more than sustenance.
Check out the video above to see a sneak peek of how the Big Fat Truth contestants get real about their emotional eating.
What You Should Do Instead Of Eating
Common emotions that we confuse for hunger are, in fact, anger and anxiousness, loneliness, and tiredness. When we’re angry or stressed, we often turn to food to calm us down. If you check in with yourself and find out this is the case, try a calming activity instead, like a coloring book, taking a walk, listening to music, watching TV, or even a long, hot shower.
Similarly, if you are lonely or tired, you might seek the company or energy of food. If you’re feeling particularly lethargic or sad, try taking a nap or phoning a friend. You might even be dehydrated and need to drink some water, a feeling that we often confused for tiredness, and then hunger. The HALT method is all about checking in on your own feelings to make sure you’re not using eating as an emotional crutch.
What To Do When You’re Really Hungry
If you’ve used the HALT method and decided food is the way to go, there are still steps you can take to keep your diet in check. Make sure you’re practicing mindful eating — not in front of the TV or your phone — so that you’re focused on how you feel. This way, you’ll know when you’ll feel full.
Keep a glass of water nearby and make sure to finish it with your meal, making certain that dehydration won’t leave you feeling hungry when you really aren’t. Eat slowly and think about how you feel while you’re eating: are you enjoying the food or just rushing your bites? How is the food making you feel? The more feedback you can give yourself about your diet, the more you’ll learn your own needs. When you know what your body needs to be healthy, you’ll be better at actually being healthy.
To see more and learn more weight loss tips, watch The Big Fat Truth on Z Living: premiering Sunday June 11th at 8 PM.