Negative emotions often cause people to eat when they are bored, angry or already full, says New York Times-bestselling author Dr.Susan Albers, a nationally recognized psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness.
Improving your emotional intelligence (EI) will help you make smarter food decisions, eat healthier and better manage your weight, says Dr. Albers. Too often, people have kneejerk reactions to food, mindlessly consuming calories, rather than taking a breath and consciously thinking through their options.
“I have had numerous clients tell me that when they become more mindful of their bodies and tune in closely to their emotions, not only does it help with their eating, it helps them enjoy their relationships and jobs more,” says Albers, whose work has been featured in many of the nation’s top media outlets, including O, the Oprah Magazine, Health, Self, Fitness, Family Circle, Natural Health, The Wall Street Journal and The Dr. Oz Show.
Dr. Albers recommends a variety of simple practices to increase mindfulness which can lead to reduced stress, better food choices and improved emotional intelligence including:
- Enjoy an Epsom salt soak - Add two cups of Epsom salt and half a cup of olive oil into warm bathwater and soak for 15 minutes. “Soothing water therapy, which has been around since ancient times, helps quiet and relax the body,” Albers says. “Even a short soak helps you to center and make better choices.”
- Another bath time option is a warming mustard soak - Mix ¼ cup mustard seed powder, ¼ cup Epsom salt, ½ cup baking soda and six drops of your favorite essential oil. Pour the mixture in a hot bath. “A mustard soak helps relax and detox your body as well as soothe tired or torn muscles – two issues that often lead to emotional eating,” Albers says. (NOTE: Here’s a video demonstration.)
- Give your eyes a break – Rest and reset tired eyes by rubbing your hands together then gently placing your warm palms over closed eye lids for 1-3 minutes.
- Practice Child’s Pose – Kneel on a carpet or soft mat, drop your bottom to your knees and lean forward, stretching your arms out in front of you and resting your forehead on either a pillow or the floor. Breathe deeply in and out for five minutes.
- Warm Up - Improve your sleep by warming your pajamas in the dryer for 5 minutes and slipping into them just before bed.
- Tea Time – Enjoy a daily cup of cinnamon or black tea. Both have been proven to help reduce cortisol, a hormone responsible for fight-or-flight stress and often weight gain.
- Self-Massage – Use a tennis ball to relax and release muscles after a long day. Gently roll tired feet over the tennis ball or place it between your shoulders, lean against a wall and slowly move from side-to-side.
- Take a Stand - Take a break from sitting by placing your hands on either side of an open doorway, then leaning gently forward on your weight. “Sitting is the new smoking – it can take years off your life,” Albers says. “Standing periodically gives you a natural energy boost without having to go for a candy bar, and the shoulder stretch and chest opening helps relieve tension from sitting at a keyboard.”
- Nutrition Boost - Stock up on magnesium, vitamin D and iron. “Magnesium, vitamin D and iron help our bodies run smoothly,” Albers says. “People notice when they’re dragging, and these are helpful for reenergizing your body.” Eating spinach is key for all three minerals and vitamins, Albers says. Other items to eat: Vitamin D-fortified foods, such as cereal, orange juice and mushrooms; foods rich in iron, such as chicken liver and quality beef; and foods that help with magnesium, such as pumpkin seeds, almonds and leafy greens.