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I have a problem with binging on food. I am constantly snacking. Food goes to my hips, and I get so down about it. – Binge Eater

Dear Binge Eater,

Eating and snacking are easy to do, and there are few opportunities to exercise. Have you ever heard of the term “comfort food”? It’s called comfort food because when you eat it, it comforts you. Many people who eat when they are bored or feeling down find that eating soothes and distracts them from things they are feeling or thinking about that they do not like. This is called emotional eating. If you are an emotional eater you might be using food to avoid dealing with the way you feel. To change an unhealthy behavior you have to replace it with a different healthy behavior.

To avoid emotional eating be aware of what you are thinking while you are eating. Ask yourself “how do I feel right now?” Keep a journal of times you snacked throughout the day, what you ate, and how you felt before, during, and after eating. Journal about things you are thinking and feeling. This is a healthier way to handle emotions that arise. Create a plan for what to do when you feel like binging, such as going for a walk. You might not like this idea, but include your family. You will need the accountability and support. Let your parent(s) know you are frustrated with your eating habits. Let them know your plan. Maybe you can get a family member to exercise or eat healthy with you. Ask your parents to think of you when grocery shopping. The more unhealthy snacks they buy, the more difficult it will be for you to work on your eating habits. Be realistic. You probably won’t have overnight changes, but work in steps and realistic goals, such as “I will walk around the block one night per week,” or “I will write in my journal each time I start to snack.”

Other tips: keep a water bottle with you at all times. Water will fill you up so you won’t crave food. Control your portions. Make a fist and use this as a guide to control portion sizes. Eat throughout the day instead of loading up on lots of food a few times a day. Keep healthy snacks around the house. Some examples: raisins, granola bars, fruits like apples and bananas, healthy cereals (the healthiest cereals are kept on the higher shelves in the cereal aisle), yogurt, etc.

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