Whether it’s relationship strive, an impending deadline at work, or dealing with a loss of a dear one, stressful events tend to trigger the urge to reach for food for emotional relief.
This is what’s known as emotional eating, and it’s a common coping mechanism for stress and other negative feelings. But science says that it solves nothing and can instead cause serious health ramifications.
If you’re dealing with emotional eating, you’re in the right place. In today’s article, you’ll learn what emotional eating is all about, as well as practical strategies to help you overcome this disastrous habit.
Let’s get started.
What Emotional Eating
Let’s first dissect what it emotional and try to understand the relationship between food and emotions.
Also known as stress eating, emotional eating is when you find yourself excessively reaching for food because you’re feeling down or experiencing a stressful situation.
It involves using food to trigger a positive mood, sooth unpleasant feelings, or maintain a positive mood.
In other words, it’s about using food to make yourself feel better—to satisfy emotional needs instead of real physical hunger.
Maybe you stress eat because you’re fighting with your partner. Or perhaps you have a demanding boss, which can be fraught with strong emotions.
Stress isn’t the only culprit. Other emotions, such as sadness, depression, loneliness, anxiety, or even positive ones, like happiness, can be triggers, too.
Emotional eating isn’t the solution to your emotional issues. It’s no more than a Band-Aid on a deeper wound. Making it a habit only compounds your problems.
After the binging episode is over, not only do the trigger feelings remain, but you also feel ashamed and guilty for stuffing more food into your mouth than you should.
The food suck. When you emotionally eat, you’re more likely to reach for high-calorie food, sweets, and other comforting but unhealthy bites.
You might order pizza when you’re feeling lonely, go through an entire bag of chips because you’re feeling down. Or eat mindlessly because you feel rejected after a lousy date.
Stress eating is common among people of all ages, sizes, and shapes—even healthy individuals—and it can take on various forms.
About 40 percent of adults reported having overeating or eating unhealthy foods in the past as a reaction to stress—half of which admit to stress eating at least once a week, or more often, according to the American Psychological Association.
So, don’t feel bad if you’re dealing with it yourself. What matters is what you choose to do no next.
How to Stop Emotional Eating
If your typical reaction to any emotional trigger—stress or happiness-is by reaching for food, you’d want to stop.
Here’s the good news. You can break the cycle of emotional eating. It just takes time and practice. There are many measures you can take right away to bring relief to what ails you without stuffing your mouth.
Here are a few.
Feel the Feeling
Emotional eating happens, and it’s not a death sentence. The key is to remember that it’s important not to beat yourself to the ground because of it. Have some compassion. You’re only a human, after all. And nobody is perfect.
One measure you can take to gain some control over this habit is to recognize stress eating for what is so you can start reaching for food to satisfy physical hunger instead of using it as a way to deal with emotions.
Begin to pay attention to your thoughts and feeling patterns when you get that urge to eat. Maybe you’re feeling lonely, stressed, taken for granted, rejected, or feeling overwhelmed.
Pause for a moment before you reach for that food. Then ask yourself, ‘what is it I’m craving?” What is it I’m hungry for?
Find your Triggers
Your next step is to ask yourself what’s causing you to try to satisfy the emotional void with food. You need to understand why you’re acting this way if you want to break free. Awareness creates its own momentum.
Of course, it’s not possible to avoid all of the life stressors, but if you pay attention to what’s happening around you, you might exert some control over your behavior. Failure to address the root cause is like putting a Band-Aid on a deeper wound. It won’t work out for you for the long haul.
So what’s causing you to overeat?
Is it stress? Anxiety? Boredom?
Are you feeling depressed? What does this feel like?
I’d recommend that you keep track of your food intake alongside your emotional states using a fitness journal. This should help you draw a direct connection—or correlation—between food choices and emotions. The more you get to know yourself and what makes you tick, the better off you’ll be.
Determine A Better Response
Once you get a glimpse of what’s causing you to overeat, come up with a plan to help you avoid falling into these emotional eating traps. The plan will help you find healthier ways to release negative emotions and self soothe without reaching for food.
Here’s the formula:
Fill in the blanks “When I feel (negative emotion), I’ll (healthier alternative).
- I am tired
- I am stressed
- I’m feeling down
- I’m depressed
- I’m feeling lonely
- I’m feeling rejected.
Next, plan your better and healthier response. Here are a few examples:
- Call a friend
- Take a nap
- Go for a run
- Have a dance party
- Hit the gym
- Read a fiction book
- Play video games
For instance, if boredom is a trigger, consider going to the gym or asking a friend out.
There you have it! This is what you need to do in order to overcome emotional eating. Now that you know what to do you have to take action and take action as soon as possible. The speed of implementation is key for success. The rest is just detail.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
Thank you for dropping by.