How to stop compulsive eating

If you want your diet to work, you cannot just cut back on calories, you need to cut out on food triggers, which lead to those binges in the first place. Admit it: there are times when you aren’t hungry, but you eat anyway. You associate food with certain routines, or everybody else is eating so you feel compelled to join them. Here’s how to get control of your appetite:

Reward yourself with things other than food. If you used to treat yourself to a burger or a piece of chocolate cake, identify other things you would enjoy and make that your reward. How about a new shade of nail polish? Or a massage? Or a video of your favorite movie? Some of the best things in life are free (of calories, that is!).

Food is usually seen as a convenient reward because it’s so easy to open the refrigerator. If that’s the case, keep your favorite things handy (but only bring them out for celebratory occasions). Like why not get a bottle of really expensive perfume, or buy a box of bath oils to make your soak a little more special?

Don’t eat away your stress, take away your stress! Many people eat when they are anxious or worried. It’s a habit that dates back to our infancy, when the rhythmic sucking at a bottle was enough to lull us into comfortable, carefree sleep. If you’re a stress-eater, look for other ways of diffusing tension. Try meditation techniques, or stand up and take a quick walk to release the nervous energy. Call a friend when you are upset, or keep a funny or inspiring book in your desk drawer for a no-calorie pick-me-up in the middle of the day.

Identify your binging zones. Look at your routine. Where and when do you unconsciously reach for a bag of chips, or start craving a cappuccino? Then remove any temptation from that area, or schedule something to keep you busy and distracted when the cravings hit. For example, if you usually get the munchies while watching television, keep your hands busy by using that time to polish the silverware. If 3 pm has always been your mocha and bagel habit, brownbag celery sticks so you can have a much healthier snack at your desk.

Find other ways to socialize with friends. One of the biggest reasons why it’s hard to stay on a diet is that food is often the center of many social activities. There are business lunches, coffee with friends, family dinners. Just because you are giving up fat doesn’t mean you are giving up all contact with the outside world. Try scheduling another type of activity. Play golf or tennis with your colleagues, have a facial with your gal pals at the nearby salon, and head for a matinee instead of dinner. If there is no getting out of the meal, then at least don’t go there hungry. Eat before joining them, so you won’t be tempted to binge.

Clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Even if you crave for Doritos, if there isn’t any to be found in the house, then you still won’t break your diet. So don’t lead yourself into temptation, stock up on healthy alternatives, and make the choice much easier. What if you live with other people, who may not necessarily share your new food lifestyle ? You can’t force them to take junk food out of their lives, but arrange for your food and theirs to be segregated. It will take a little more discipline from your part, but training yourself to only look from your corner of the refrigerator is much easier than fighting a battle of wills with that double-cheese dip.

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