One of the first things that happens to many people when they decide to do intermittent fasting is their minds take over and obsess about food. Part of the reason this happens is that most of us do at least some emotional eating in our lives.

Emotional eating is when we use food as a temporary ‘fix’ for unwanted or unpleasant feelings, and sometimes even for positive feeling we don’t know how to handle. What we are left with after we do this is a few more pounds and the same feelings we were trying to avoid dealing with.

Are you an emotional eater?

Most all of us use food from time to time as a reward, a celebration, or just a boost to our lagging energy levels. A true emotional eater, however, often:

  • Uses food to relieve stress
  • Eats even when full or not even hungry
  • Eats to soothe or avoid the 5 basic feelings groups: mad, bad, sad, glad and afraid
  • Consistently rewards himself or herself with food
  • Eats until feeling stuffed at every meal
  • Feels powerless or out of control around food.

If you see yourself in one or more of these descriptions of an emotional eater, you can move beyond the urge to do emotional eating that haunts you when you attempt to fast.

Learn to feel and express your feelings in a healthy way before fasting

Most of us grow up without being taught to feel and express our feelings in healthy ways. This can lead to problems in our adult lives like fixating on food when we attempt to fast. We can avoid this issue by learning how to determine what we are really feeling and deal with feelings in a healthy way.

Many of us regularly eat three meals a day. If we crave food in between these meals or if we have a tendency to overeat, here is a plan for ignoring the cravings or the excesses:

  1. Look at your dominant hand (are you right-handed or left-handed?) and name each of your fingers, beginning with your thumb as mad, bad, sad, glad, and ending with afraid on your little finger. (This may seem a little silly, but it is a powerful visualization tool.)

When the urge to eat other than at mealtimes or to overeat at mealtimes arises, pull out your dominant hand and ask yourself what you are feeling. Run through the 5 feelings groups while you concentrate on each finger as you determine what feeling you are translating into hunger to soothe – mad, bad, sad, glad or afraid.

  1. Once you have determined the feeling, you then need to express it in some manner to get it out of you. The best way is to write it down using this formula: “I am feeling _________ because ___________.” The healthy way to describe your feelings on paper or when you are expressing them to someone is to always use “I” statements.
  1. Decide what to do with your feeling. Express it to someone, share it with someone safe, or decide it really doesn’t matter.

Once you have gotten used to dealing with your feelings that cause emotional eating in a healthy manner, you are ready to begin intermittent fasting using this handy tool.