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Emotional Eating

Updated: May 30, 2023

Identifying Ways to Prevent & Overcome It!

Have you made one or more of

the following statements?

1. “Eating helps me to not think about my personal issues.”

2. “Food is my go-to, it’s always there for me. It’s like the friend I can count on when I’m lonely.”

3. “Taking care of my kids & household and working full-time is stressful, so I drink several Cokes and candy bars to get through the day.”

4. “I don’t like feeling empty inside, and eating helps me to feel full.”

5. “I overeat at night while I’m watching TV or on Facebook. I work hard all day, and this is what I do for myself to relax and reward myself.”

If you can identify with any of these questions, you could

be emotional eating or overeating.

You are not alone! Interestingly, there aren’t many individuals who eat simply because they’re hungry. This has become even more true with the ramifications of COVID-19 being a significant reason for this occurring more.

The issue with becoming an emotional eater is that the psychological and underlying problem is not resolved. For many, the issue magnifies, leaving them to deal with the initial emotional pain, as well as the guilt of overeating.

To overcome emotional eating, you must understand what emotional eating is and learn the dangers of becoming an emotional eater, as well as take the necessary steps to deal with your feelings.

What is Emotional Eating?

Have you ever had a horrible day at work, went home, and ate an entire pint of #BenandJerry's Ice Cream? Well, if you have, this is an example of emotional eating. Generally speaking, emotional eating is the act of using food as a crutch or temporary fix for dealing with personal, emotional issues. The occasional indulgence does not mean you have a problem with #overeating. Emotional eating occurs when food becomes your primary source of comfort.

Here are several questions to consider in determining if you’re an emotional eater:

  1. Do I reward yourself with food?

  2. Do I eat more when you're feeling stressed?

  3. Do I eat to feel better (to calm & soothe myself when I’m sad, upset, bored, anxious, frustrated, etc.)?

  4. Do I eat when you're not hungry or when you're full?

  5. Do I feel powerless or out of control around food?

  6. Do I regularly eat until you've stuffed yourself?

  7. Does food make me feel safe? Do I feel like food is a friend?

The following is information to help identify emotional eating, along with tips to help you prevent or stop emotional eating, fight cravings, identify your triggers, and find more satisfying ways to deal with your feelings.

Signs of Emotional Eating

When someone is #emotionallyhungry, it is hard to deny because you feel as if you're starving. Identifying the signs of emotional eating is the first way to deal with the issue at hand.

Triggers of Emotional Eating

There are many reasons people become emotional eaters. To combat the issue, it’s vital to understand what #emotionaleating triggers can drive you to overeat.

The triggers for emotional eating include:

  • Boredom: Believe it or not, being bored can cause you to eat. When you have nothing to do, & food is around, many people will eat it.

  • Childhood Habits: For some, emotional eaters developed the habit as a child. Some parents would reward children for good behavior by taking them out for a sweet treat. As a result, children grow up to reward themselves in the same manner.

  • Hiding Feelings: When you're trying to bottle up your emotions & feelings, you will eat to try and keep your feelings in.

  • Stress: When people are stressed, it increases levels of a hormone known as Cortisol. Cortisol can bring about the need for salty, sweet, or fatty foods.

  • Societal Factors: Some eat because others are eating, while others eat because they're nervous about being in a social setting.

Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating

When negative feelings trigger emotional eating, you can take steps to control cravings.

To help overcome & stop emotional eating, try these helpful tips:

  1. Keep a food diary: Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you feel when you eat, and how hungry you are. Over time, you might see patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.

  2. Tame your stress: If stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.

  3. Have a hunger reality check: Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a few hours ago and don't have a rumbling stomach, you're probably not hungry. Give the craving time to pass.

  4. Get support: You're more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.

  5. Fight boredom: Instead of snacking when you're not hungry, distract yourself and substitute a healthier behavior. Take a walk, watch a movie, play with your cat, listen to music, read, surf the internet, or call a friend.

  6. Take away temptation: Don't keep hard-to-resist comfort foods in your home. And if you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you have your emotions in check.

  7. Don't deprive yourself: When trying to lose weight, you might limit calories too much, eat the same foods repeatedly, and banish treats. This may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions. Eat satisfying amounts of healthier foods, enjoy an occasional treat, & get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.

  8. Snack healthy: If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a healthy snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip, nuts, or unbuttered popcorn. Or try lower-calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.

  9. Learn from setbacks: If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself, and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience & make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you're making in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that'll lead to better health.

Lastly, if you've tried a few of these self-help alternatives, but you're still unable to control your emotional eating, you may want to consider help from a medical or mental #healthprofessional. And, remember, seeking help is not something to be afraid or ashamed of - therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and learn coping skills. It can also help you discover whether you have an eating disorder, which can be connected to emotional eating.

Cheers to excellent health, love & daring to be different!

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