Whenever he thought about it, he felt terrible. And so, at last, he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it. ~John-Roger and Peter McWilliams
Question #89639 posted on 05/08/2017 5:14 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I don't usually have trouble with weight gain but have been emotionally eating lately--when I'm depressed, I eat a lot of chocolate. Usually not this much but it's escalated into a LOT of chocolate. Nothing makes me feel better and I've gained like 10 lbs in the last two months... I'm not overweight but I'm getting there and wouldn't care except that it means I'm getting more unhealthy and unhappy. Do any of you guys eat when you're depressed? How do you stop?

-My Name Here

A:

Dear Fatimah Warner,

I eat when I'm stressed, which is also usually when I feel depressed. I also eat when I'm bored or emotional, which is to say, I eat all the time.

I wish I had a perfect answer, but for me it usually just entails finding something else to do, some other form of stress relief, or another way to feel happier, cause binge eating doesn't even help in the long run. I try to remember that eating a lot really won't help me feel better. I usually try to find a healthier, lower calorie snack to satisfy some of the urges, and I find other things to fill my time. 

The other writers really did a good job of suggesting some good ideas. I like to play music a lot when I'm stressed or depressed, but that's my personal coping mechanism. Finding healthy alternatives that I sincerely enjoy is always really positive for me as well. Things that are healthy but unsatisfying always lead me to overeat later anyway.

Hope some of that helps, just experiment with what works for you! You'll find something good.

Keep it real,
Sherpa Dave (from Accra, Ghana)

A:

Dear Myna,

I eat when I'm bored and when I'm stressed. That sums up the two extremes that so often categorize my life, so I feel what you're saying about needing to cut down on it.

In Board Question #89407 a few of us gave some suggestions for things to do to reduce stress that specifically don't involve eating, and while I realize this isn't the same situation, you may find some of our suggestions helpful. Replacing eating with another coping mechanism can be really helpful in breaking the habit to wander to the kitchen/store/vending machine/secret stash of food under the bed when you're depressed.

However, I realize that's not a perfect solution. Sometimes you just want to eat, and nothing will really stop you. Having depressingly few options helps with the cravings, though. I know that I personally am much less likely to go on a food rampage if all I have is boring healthy stuff, and that may be the same for you. Plus, even if I do go raid my kitchen, it won't be as detrimental to my health if my only options are carrots, cottage cheese, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt. Compare that with times when my options include all of those things, but also goldfish, candy, Oreos, and ice cream, and all the aforementioned foods will almost always get completely ignored in favor of the tastier food which also happens to be much worse for my waistline. I'm not saying to stock up on a bunch of healthy foods that you dislike and won't eat, because they'll just go to waste, but do find at least semi-healthy foods to keep around, and get rid of the unhealthy stuff. It makes eating much less attractive when you can't eat what you want, and even if you do eat something, it's probably still healthier than eating candy or chocolate.

Similarly, when you go out shopping, or are near those tempting vending machines with their tantalizing sweets, keep a very limited amount of money you can spend. If you have a very finite amount of money to buy chocolatey goodness with, you won't be able to buy as much chocolate, and if you don't have it around your chances of eating it decrease dramatically.

Brushing your teeth can also help. This is what I do when I'm trying to stop eating for the day, because eating anything after that is just gross, and it seems like a waste to eat food that I can't even enjoy because it tastes overpoweringly of mint.

Another thing that helps me is having an accountability buddy. If you have a friend who's willing to make healthy eating goals with you, and who you have to update on your progress, it's a lot harder to justify eating a whole pan of brownies. If the only person I'm accountable to is myself, I can easily justify making unhealthy eating decisions, but when someone else is trying to make the same healthy decisions as me, I feel a much greater sense of responsibility to stick to my goals. And maybe this isn't a super healthy motivator, but it also fills me with shame when I have to tell someone how I messed up on my goals, so I'm more likely to not mess up on them if I know I'm accountable to someone else.

Finally, something that has helped me in limiting my food intake is tracking my calories. I don't mean doing it in an obsessive way and limiting my calories to an unhealthy level. However, being aware of where my calories are coming from is helpful in making healthy eating choices. I like using the My Fitness Pal app. It's free, and works great on both Android and Apple devices. You input information about your current weight and height, and say whether you want to gain weight, maintain weight, or lose weight (and how much), and it calculates how many calories you should eat every day based on your personal information and your goals. Then every time you eat something you put it in, and it shows you how many calories it is and what its macronutrient breakdown is (how much of it is carbs, how much is fat, and how much is protein). When I hold myself to inputting all the food I eat, even if I'm not following their calorie recommendations, I find myself making healthier decisions, because I don't like looking at my little circle of macronutrients and seeing that 80% of my macronutrients for the day have been fat.

Good luck, friend! You can do it! Hopefully at least one of these suggestions works for you.

-Alta

A:

Dear Aziraphale,

My answer is basically going to be an echo of Alta's, but by the mouths of two witnesses, right?

Seriously, only having healthier food on hand is such a good way to curb the chocolate binges (after all, you can't eat what isn't there to be eaten). Also, I have noticed that I feel better in general when I'm not stocked up on sweets. As an example, I got some Easter candy from my parents a few weeks ago, and then proceeded to devour unhealthy amounts of jelly beans and chocolate eggs once I got home from my classes every day. While I didn't stop this trend until the candy was depleted, eating all the junk food made me feel perpetually slightly sick and disgusted with myself (to comfort my feelings of disgust, I of course reached out for more chocolate). 

Now, normally when I get the munchies, I binge on spinach, carrots dipped in cottage cheese, and whole-grain saltines with either honey (if I'm craving something sweet), or salad dressing on them. In contrast with the candy, I do not feel sick or disgusted afterwards, merely pleasantly full. I also tend to stop eating as soon as I'm full, because this kind of food isn't nearly as addicting as sugar.

If you don't want a complete break from chocolate, maybe try to transition from straight chocolate to granola bars with chocolate in them.

~Anathema