Have you ever started a new lifestyle plan, confident and primed to reach your desired goals? It’s going fabulously for about a week and then you have a stressful day at work. While you had the best of intentions to hit the gym on the way home and cook a healthy dinner, the overwhelming desire to order a pizza and binge on Netflix is too strong to resist. And then, of course, you wake up feeling guilty because you strayed from your new plan.

This is a story that I hear repeatedly in my practice and have experienced myself. One of the biggest lifestyle hurdles that many individuals face is emotional eating. Whether you overindulge out of stress, anxiety, pain, happiness or boredom, it can significantly impact your health, confidence and derail your ability to reach your lifestyle goals. Here are a few tips to consider.

Pay attention to your habits. When I start working with a client, I always advise him or her to record his or her daily food, drink and exercise in MyFitnessPal or a journal. This not only gives us a big picture of the client’s current lifestyle state, but it can help identify problematic behaviors and habits. For instance, you may notice that you nibble on your child’s leftovers, head to the office candy dish when you’re stressed, eat out of boredom on the weekends or skip meals leading to an evening binge. All these behaviors can easily be modified or replaced with healthier ones.

Prepare for obstacles. Once you realize what your triggers are, you can then be prepared to tackle any obstacles that cross your path. Specifically, arm yourself with a tool kit. List 10 things that you can do instead of binging when you’re triggered or the temptation arises. For instance, go for a walk, call a friend, exercise, take a yoga class, meditate, color in an adult coloring book, train your dog, take a bath – just to name a few. The idea is to engage in one or more of these activities and allow the craving to pass. Drinking a large glass of water or sipping on tea at the onset may also be helpful.

Stabilize your blood sugar. Keeping your blood sugar in check on a regular basis sets you up for success. When you go too long without eating, you get hangry and may not make the best choices. Further, when you don’t eat a balanced meal consisting of nutrient-dense whole foods and fill up on empty calories (such as fettuccine alfredo, potato chips, chocolate cake) your blood sugar spikes and then crashes, setting you up to reach for more. As a rule of thumb, eat every 3-4 hours to keep your blood sugar stable and include a protein, healthy fat and fibrous carbohydrate (non-starchy vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans) at every meal and snack.

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