Unfortunately, there are not too many people that simply eat because they are hungry. Aside from eating for rewards, celebrations, and other occasions, there are some people that prefer to use food as a comfort or a means for relieving stress. The problem with becoming an emotional eater is that the emotional problem does not go away. In fact for most people, not only do they end up having to deal with the initial emotional pain, but they are also left with the guilt of eating more than they should have. It is important that you learn the warning signs of becoming an emotional eater and taking the steps to deal with your emotions.
What is Emotional Eating?
Have you ever had a bad day at work and come home and eaten an entire container of cookies and cream ice cream? Well if you have, this is an example of an emotional eater. In plain terms, emotional eating is the act of using food as a temporary fix to dealing with emotional issues.
Now if you occasionally indulge in a tasty dessert even though you’re full, or you go out to celebrate with food, this does not mean that you have a problem. A problem does not occur unless food is your primary source of comfort. If every time you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed, you check the cabinets to see what you can eat, you likely have a problem.
Some wonder why emotional eating is such a problem. However, it is a vicious, never-ending cycle of unhealthy eating habits. Generally, no one picks up a carrot when they’re sad. Thus, making the wrong food choices to mask the pain can in time, turn into something more serious. It becomes not only a battle with emotions, but a battle with your weight and the depression from them both.
Are You Emotionally Hungry or Physically Hungry?
Before you decide to stop eating as much it is important that you first differentiate whether or not you’re eating for emotional reasons or if you’re truly hungry. While this might sound like a simple task, it can sometimes be very hard to notice the difference.
When someone is emotionally hungry it is hard to deny because you feel as if you’re really hungry. So paying attention to warning signs is really the only way to cut out the emotional eating.
Emotional Eating is:
• Instant – Emotional hunger, unlike physical hunger comes without warning. The moment you feel it, you have to eat something as it feels overwhelming.
• Specific – As stated before when you’re emotionally hungry, you’re not going to pick up a carrot or some salad. Emotional hunger has you craving comfort foods like chocolate, ice cream, and more.
• Overeating – When you’re emotionally hungry you eat until the comfort foods are gone. For instance you eat a whole bag of chips or a quart of ice cream in one sitting.
• Constant – For many emotional eaters, the hunger pains don’t go away. Therefore, they continue to eat until they are completely and overstuffed.
• Mental – Emotional hunger has nothing to do with feelings in your stomach. It comes from the emotions in your head.
• Guilt – After you’ve satisfied your emotional hunger, you are left feeling guilty.
Learning What Triggers Your Emotional Eating
There are lots of reasons that people become emotional eaters. In order to stop the cycle of unhealthy eating, you will first need to learn what your triggers are. What things make you feel like eating food? Below are some common reasons people emotionally eat.
• 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.
• Hiding emotions – When you’re trying to bottle up your emotions you will eat to try and keep the feelings at bay.
• Boredom – Believe it or not, being bored can also cause you to eat. When you have nothing to do and food is around, many people will eat it.
• Childhood Traditions – Some emotional eaters developed the habit as a child. Some parents would reward children for good behavior by taking them out for a nice treat. As a result, children grow up to reward themselves in the same way.
• Social Reasons – Some eat because others are eating, while others eat because they’re nervous to be in a social setting.
Write it Down
Whether you recognized yourself in some of these triggers or not, it is a good idea for a few days to keep a emotional eating diary. This diary will help you to keep a track of your emotional eating habits so that you can create a plan to stop. The moment you feel a need to eat, write down what you were feeling that day that may have caused it. After you’ve learned what your triggers are, you can move on to learning better ways to deal with your feelings.
Healthier Ways to Deal with Emotions
No matter how hard you try to stop emotionally eating, if you’re unable to control your emotions, it will always be complicated for you to try and lose the weight or eat healthier. As stated before, emotional eating is mental and since dieting involves the mental willpower to eat write, it could cause conflict. Therefore, you need to come up with a better way of coping when you feel down. Here are some alternatives:
• Depression – if you’re feeling down or lonely, find some support to call on. Talk with a close friend or family member.
• Boredom – if you’re bored, try to find something new to do. Watch a great movie, take a walk around your neighborhood, anything to keep your mind off of eating.
• Anxiety – if you’re feeling anxious about something, try stress reliever techniques such as meditation, massage, stress balls, and more.
Don’t Give in to the Cravings
It’s really hard to ignore the urge to eat when it hits you. Though many emotional eaters report not being able to help themselves, you have to understand it is a mind of matter scenario. Some ideas you could try to not give in to the cravings are:
• Wait Five Minutes – instead of going to the fridge the moment you feel hungry, you should consider putting the hunger on hold for five minutes. During this five minutes you should evaluate why you’re eating, what you’re feeling, and healthier alternatives.
• Accept your feelings – It can be scary to resist eating and to dig deep into your feelings, however, that is the only real solution to getting over your emotional eating habits. Allow yourself to fully feel so that you’re able to heal from it.
Choose a Healthier Lifestyle
It has been proven time and time again that when you’re physically healthy you are better prepared to become emotional healthy. Therefore you need to make sure that you’re fully taking care of yourself so that you can be ready for what life brings your way. By getting daily exercise, adequate sleep, down time, and indulging in a social life, you are taking the necessary steps to getting your emotional eating under control.
Dealing with everything that life throws your way is not always an easy task. When emotions such as sadness, pain, discomfort, stress, depression, and anxiety kick in, they can be tough to get past. However, becoming an emotional eater is only a temporary solution, the real solution to your problems comes from facing your feelings, accepting them, and moving on.