Emotional eating is a serious hazard to weight control and can be controlled with some simple strategies.

Hardly anyone talks about emotional eating, the tendency to reach for fried, sugary foods when you feel anxious. This happens because stress increases the levels of the hormone, cortisol, in the body, and intensifies cravings for fried, sugary, fatty and salty treats.

For the most part, these foods rewards the pleasure centre of the brain, inducing a cycle of binge-eating, and eventual weight gain. But you can use the tips below, to help you overcome stress related eating.

#1 Eat balanced meals

Eat smaller, more frequent and well-balanced meals and allow yourself healthy snacks in between meals. Start your mornings with a healthy breakfast, and opt for low-calorie snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetable chips, hummus, roasted channa, nuts,coconut water, buttermilk, yoghurt, and homemade soup.

#2 Stock up on healthy foods

Clear out all unhealthy foods from your kitchen store and refrigerator, and replace these with healthy foods. Also, opt for wholewheat cereals in place of flour, and brown rice in place of white. Remember, it’s easier to avoid unhealthy foods when they are not within arm’s reach.

#3 Use a stress-management strategy

Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to beat stress. Workout regularly, go for a walk, do some deep breathing, listen to music or play with your pets. This can help to take your focus off food, and lower your cortisol levels.

#4 Identify triggers

Keep a food diary, in which you maintain a record of your emotions. Note how you feel before you eat, the types of food you crave when you feel a certain emotion, and your emotional response after you give into your cravings, or when you opt for a healthy snack alternative.

This practice can help unearth unknown patterns in your behavior, helping you identify how much your emotions dictate your eating. Food diaries also provide dietitians with valuable information about you, useful for the preparation of a diet chart for you.

#5 Distinguish real Hunger from boredom

If you crave certain foods soon after eating a meal, this may have more to do with your emotions, than hunger. Get up from your seat and pour yourself a glass of cold water. If you are still hungry after this, reach for a healthy snack instead of sugary, fatty food.