Emotional eating is compulsive overeating so as to relieve negative emotions
If your body starts craving for specific foods such as chocolate or cheese when you are upset or if eating makes you feel better when you are sad or worried then your binging is because of emotional eating.
What Is Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is the practice of eating large quantities of food –especially the high-calorie, fattening‘comfort’ food – in response to emotions and not when one is hungry. Emotional eating makes you turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. It means your emotions and not your body dictate when and how much you eat. It can happen to anyone and is one of the biggest obstacles in weight control. If you eat carrot sticks, then it’s probably OK, but it’s the junk food which the body craves for. The more fattening, sweeter or saltier the food, the better you seem to feel.
Emotional Eating Disorder
Different people have different reasons to give in to emotional eating :-
- For some people a major event trigger emotional eating – losing a job or going through a bad patch in marriage.
- The most common emotional triggers of craving are stress or anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger, PMS, sadness or depression. It seems easier to stifle your feelings with food than to acknowledge them and deal with them
- Is Food Addictive: Nutrition researcher Dr. Neal Barnard believes that a number of foods such as cheese, chocolate and sugar may actually trick our brain into desiring them. Whether foods are truly addictive or not, there is no denying that food can affect the way we feel. Consider the way that chocolate helps ‘cure’ your blues and whether you realize it or not , your body starts pining for the food that brought on those good feelings the next time around. So, chances are next time when you are feeling low, you’ll automatically crave for chocolate.
- A Vicious Weight Gain Cycle: Food is a basic human need- we can’t live without it. But when eating fills an emotional need, where love or comfort is lacking, it can lead to weight problems and eating disorders. People feel ashamed after binging and then eat more to punish themselves for their bad eating. So the cycle continues.
How To Stop Emotional Eating
Emotional eating can sabotage your weight management efforts. Getting a handle on your tendency to eat in response to emotions can be one of the most important factors in achieving long-term weight loss success.
Here are a few suggestions for combating emotional eating :-
- Identify Your Triggers: What induces you to eat? . Is it anger, stress or loneliness ?. Try to focus on the real issue which is actually bothering you. Take care of your true needs such as the needs for nurturing, for recognition or for communicating with people. Once the real issue is singled out and dealt with the urge to eat will automatically dissipate.
- Recognize Hunger Signals : An important step in dealing with emotional eating is to get to know your body’s hunger signals. Try listening to your body and eat when you’re hungry instead of when you’re supposed to. True hunger actually feels like a mild gnawing sensation. To find out if you’re feeling a craving or getting hungry, give the urge to eat a 10-minute waiting period. If you’ve moved on to doing something and suddenly realized you’re not hungry, it was a craving. If the urge to eat is still there, it means you are actually hungry.
- Stock Healthy Foods: Limit the trigger foods by not stocking them in your home. Instead, opt for healthier foods like fruits, salads, smoothies and nuts which are not only low in calorie but also make you feel full because of their fiber content.
- Don’t Diet: To manage cravings and lose weight, don’t go on a diet. When you try to avoid a food altogether in the end you’ll eat more of it. By choosing new, healthier ways of eating and exercising more instead of following a strict diet that omits particular foods, you’ll get fewer, less powerful cravings.
- “First Two Bites” Principle: As per this principle, the first two bites of any food have the most flavor. After that, you are just feeding. So you can use this to be able to enjoy a piece of chocolate, for example, by taking the first bite and really paying attention to what it’s like. Notice the distinct flavors, the texture, how it feels in your mouth, and how it feels as you swallow it. Take a second bite and do the same thing. What’s interesting is that when you eat any favorite food, by focusing on the first two bites, you’ll find that you can get a lot of satisfaction from a small amount of food.
- Create A Diversion: Engaging the mind in another activity can divert it from food. Whether it’s going for a walk or reading a good book, planning other activities will help you relax and avoid binges.
- Control Your Emotions Before They Control You: The problem of emotional eating arises when you are unable to keep a check on your emotions. These cravings can only be controlled when you are emotionally healthy. Analyze your life, reflect on its positives and negatives and try to be in control.
Following these tips may help:
- Write down an analysis of your thoughts and emotions on a regular basis. This way you would know what activities a typical week includes, whether you like these activities, and the activities you prefer to spend your time on.
- Think of what’s really missing in your life. Is it food you want, or love? If you’re feeling lonely or depressed, talk to a friend or loved one and reconnect with the people in your life.
- Find positive ways to cope with difficult situations in your life. Take up a hobby such as a dance class or join a local library. This will give you an outlet through which to express yourself and also help you feel more connected to the outside world.
- Support Yourself With Healthy Lifestyle Habits : Join your local health club or exercise groups. This will encourage you to exercise daily as well as Connect with others. Also, learn to distinguish between thirst and hunger. Many people tend to eat when they are actually only thirsty.
Don’t be very hard on yourself when it comes to food. It’s OK if you eat your favorite food once in a while without feeling guilty about it. Acknowledge the indulgence and then move on. Rather than munching, it’s better to develop new skills for dealing with boredom, self-esteem issues and stress. Try to pin point the major reasons for your stress or unpleasant emotions and see how you can stop emotional eating.