Over the years, I have used a variety of therapeutic tools. Meditation has helped create space for thoughts to feel less urgent and intrusive. Journal writing and art have been consistently cathartic, allowing me to step back and process my emotions and experiences in a more objective and compassionate way.
4. Do something that is enjoyable for you.
We often turn to food as a source of pleasure, especially if we’ve been restricting our dietary intake, says Melissa I. Klein, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College who specializes in eating disorders. . There is nothing inherently wrong with recreational eating or occasionally using food as a stimulant. In fact, joy, joyful connection, and other positive emotions can be a central part of forming a healthy relationship with food. However, if you think that eating for pleasure is one of the reasons you feel out of control about food, it may be helpful to develop alternative sources of pleasure and ways to respond to emotions such as boredom or frustration.
Participating in an alternative activity can divert your attention from food, says Dr. Klein. It can help to have a few intentional distractions up your sleeve to interrupt and ease overwhelming thoughts and emotions.
They can be activities like playing an instrument, bathing, or creating art. Over time, you may be able to turn to these types of activities for comfort or pleasure at times when you would have felt out of control while searching for food for those feelings.
5. Seek help from experts.
One caveat to keep in mind is that people feel out of control with food for a wide spectrum of reasons, so a one-size-fits-all approach is not realistic. With this in mind, it is important to consult with an expert, if possible, to determine the underlying causes of why you feel out of control. It could be a physical health expert, a mental health expert, or both.
“For someone whose eating is primarily driven by physiology,” says Dr. Tanofsky-Kraff, “suggesting changes in behavior and activities can be not only very frustrating but stigmatizing, which can further promote uncontrolled eating. mood disorders and health problems associated with stress “.
If you really don’t know why you are feeling out of control regarding food, if you are feeling more physical than mental, or if this is a sudden change for you, it may be helpful to see your primary care physician to rule out physical causes. . For example, conditions like diabetes (type 1 and type 2) and hyperthyroidism can cause a significant increase in appetite.
Finding a therapist can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start, but there are many resources online to offer guidance. You can also ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist who specializes in problems related to eating, and they may be able to refer you to someone who is covered by the same insurance or who knows of financial assistance programs that can support you. (These tips on how to find the best therapist for you can help, too.)
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, there is also an influx of therapy platforms that can offer more affordable and flexible online counseling services. Some options include BetterHelp and Talkspace. However, before using an online business, do some research to make sure the service you want to try conducts its practices in an ethical manner and will protect your privacy.
6. Talk to someone about how you feel.
While seeking the services of a professional therapist can certainly be helpful, it may not be an option for everyone. There are several systemic barriers that prevent people from receiving the mental health care they need. Some cannot afford therapy or lack insurance to pay for it, while others may have trouble finding culturally competent therapists.