4 Tips to Avoid Emotional Eating in Menopause


Tip #9 in the Nutrition In Menopause Series E: motional Eating In Menopause

Menopause can be a time of stress and mood swings. Many women will turn to food to calm down.

How many times did you reach out for the fridge when you were anxious or unhappy?

During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many people saw their weight climb as they turned to food for comfort during this time of uncertainty and crisis.

Think of all those Hollywood actresses we watch drowning their heartbreak sorrows in a bucket of Ben & Jerry’s. They sob while finishing off the whole container. Unhappy? Broken hearted? Reach for that ice cream.

Most of us do it. It is not irrational either. Comfort foods tend to be starchy and full of fat and sugar. Think: cookies, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, the list goes on. These foods cause a surge of feel-good hormones that help us to feel calmer, at least for a while.

That’s a good thing, right?

Wrong! Although comfort foods cause temporary good feelings, their effect is transitory and can cause us to want to have that good feeling again, also known as cravings. Other things can also cause feel-good hormones to rise. Things like meeting the person you love raises feel-good hormones for up to 8 hours; exercise can cause this same effect for even longer (That is why people can become addicted even to exercise).

Food, on the other hand, has an effect that lasts a mere 15 minutes, making us want more very quickly.

Think about it…How often do you crave lettuce versus ice cream or potato chips? It is foods that are laden with sugar, polyunsaturated fat, and refined carbohydrates that give us that strong initial spike of dopamine and cause us to crave them even more.So

So, what do we do when we are feeling anxious or low? We reach for that chocolate bar or that leftover spaghetti.

Eating to fill an emotional void is called Emotional Eating. It is eating when you are not physically hungry but are feeling any number of negative emotions, including boredom, stress, trauma, loss, anxiety, depression, and sadness.

It is clear how this is not good for us. As a one-off, it’s perfectly okay to indulge, but as a coping mechanism with pain or negative feelings, emotional eating can turn into a problem; sometimes even into an addiction.

So, what are we supposed to do?

If you find yourself eating without being hungry (and likely not feeling great about the fact later), there are a few things you can do to curb emotional eating.


1- Pay attention to your triggers

What are the things that cause the feeling of being overwhelmed and needing the comfort of food? Keep a diary. Understanding what causes stress or emotional eating helps in managing it.

Emotional eating in menopause

2- Check in with yourself

When you feel the urge to eat, decide to take 5 minutes before actually eating. Don’t say to yourself that you must not or can’t eat that food, just that you will delay having it for 5 minutes. During those minutes, reflect on how you are feeling and what is the real cause of your emotional state. Check in with your body. Is it real hunger that you are feeling?

Emotional eating in menopause

3- Avoid having those tempting foods in the house

If you don’t have it right there, you are unlikely to eat it. This is a case of “out of sight, out of reach”. This is called availability syndrome.


4- Try some distraction techniques

Close your eyes and visualize yourself in a location you love, and you are feeling calm and happy. An alternative is to decide to take a few minutes to meditate or listen to music. Brush your teeth; it works! Have a club soda or sparkling water. Put on some music and dance. Take a bath.

Emotional eating in menopause

Emotional eating has nothing to do with real hunger. If it is a persistent issue, it is best to get to the bottom of what is causing it. Dealing with deep-rooted issues that reside in our subconscious requires the knowledge and skill of a trained therapist. If you find yourself always turning to food for comfort, it is best to understand the real reason why and seek help.

As we go through menopause, we experience mood swings and insomnia, both of which predispose us to negative feelings and we may try to self-medicate with food. However, it’s important to keep in mind that we also will have a tendency to put on extra weight in menopause. So we have to be extra vigilant about curbing emotional eating.

Better walk away from that fridge than towards it!

To read more in our nutrition series, click here




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