Emotional eating is a signal that life is out of balance. Emotional eating and overeating happen when we use food to try to help us manage our feelings. The triggers for emotional eating vary–we might eat to cope with loneliness, unhappiness, stress or boredom. Sometimes we eat for comfort or in an attempt to create a pleasant experience, when food really isn't what we crave.

Finding other avenues to meet our emotional needs and other ways to shift our moods is one of the most powerful things we can do to take charge of our eating, our weight, and our health. Play is an important part of creating a life balance that allows us to thrive. It's also a fantastic mood enhancer.

The amount of play and fun we need to balance our lives varies, but ignoring our need for play and fun is a mistake too many busy adults make. Play rejuvenates us. Play and fun energize us and provide gratification—a life worth living. Play can be an important form of stress relief, not only because it builds up reserves of positive feeling and energy but because it provides a break from stressful activities and circumstances. Play is something that connects us to the present moment. It gets us out of our thinking mind (which is often overly focused on the past or the future) and brings us in touch with the present and with ourselves.

When my clients really stop and assess a lack of play and fun in their lives and the toll this is taking on them, it often spurs them to start to make more changes.
Here are some ideas and tips to get you started:

• If you are not playing enough, ask yourself, "Why?" Is it an issue of time or of lacking people to play with? How can you start to change this?
• As adults, some of us get rusty and forget how to play. When we think about playing, we come up blank and then we feel silly and we go back to work. Playfulness is a quality that many of us need to nurture. Start small. Think about things that give you pleasure—even for five minutes. Buy some bubbles from the Dollar Store, color or draw (they do make coloring books for adults), go shoot baskets in the driveway.
• Make a list of things you "used to do" for fun or a dream list of things you have always wanted to do.
• Start setting aside time—even five to ten minutes if that is all you have—where the only rule is that you can't be "productive."
• Turn off the TV and the electronics. You might feel bored at first, but you will eventually also start to remember or create some new sources of entertainment.
• Spend time with kids (as long as the electronics are turned off). Kids can teach you how to have fun with an empty pot, a big box, or a piano they don't know how to play.

Sometimes adding more play can be as simple as examining the attitude with which you approach a task. Ask yourself how you can be more playful about the things you already do. Can you play some party music while you cook spaghetti? Have a water fight while watering the lawn? A woman I know has a Monday night cleaning party where the whole family bops around to music and has a race to see who can pick up their assigned room of the house the fastest.

How do YOU play?

Author's Bio: 

Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a Psychologist, ICF Certified Life Coach, emotional eating expert, and the founder of www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com, a company dedicated to providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and overwhelm. Find out more and pick up her free audio series: “5 simple steps to move beyond overwhelm with food and life” at www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com

Copyright 2009 - Melissa McCreery, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and provide full author credit.