If you’ve experienced a bad day at work, had a fight with your partner, or feel like you have many responsibilities, you are experiencing stress. It’s only normal to feel pressure, especially if you have a lot on your plate. Sometimes, stress can cause us to eat as a coping mechanism, and this is an unhealthy habit because it leads to emotional eating.
Have you found yourself searching out comforting food while in difficult or stressful situations? How often do you avoid going to the pantry while you’re feeling down or stressed? Well, most of us know the answer. Around 40% of people tend to eat more when experiencing stress. Finding comfort in food is a typical behavior pattern for many people, and it’s a part of a cycle of behavior associated with emotional eating.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is eating in response to our emotions. Food is used as a coping mechanism when we feel vulnerable, depressed, alone, stressed, or a reward to make us feel better or fill our emotional needs. In simple words, emotional eating is an “eating habit without any physical hunger.”
How is emotional eating different from binge eating and overeating?
Emotional eating is dependent on the situation. We eat emotionally in response to both positive and negative triggers. For instance, eating a cake to celebrate a special occasion or even eating a pizza while feeling bored or missing someone are examples of emotional eating. Overeating means eating more than the body can use for energy and is different from emotional eating.
Binge eating is a behavior where you eat until you feel uncomfortably full. This eating usually involves the consumption of more than 1000 calories in one sitting. It is also considered an eating disorder.
Is emotional eating healthy?
Emotional eating is, by no means, a healthy habit. If left unchecked, emotional eating can result in a whole host of weight-related health problems, including high blood pressure, fatigue, nausea, and diabetes. Emotional eating can impact our weight-loss efforts, especially if we eat highly processed junk food high in fat, calories, refined carbohydrates, and sugar.
How do we know when emotional eating becomes a habit?
Some signs that indicate you’re an emotional eater are sudden unexpected increases in hunger, cravings for comforting foods, a lack of control or willpower while eating, and guilty feelings after eating.
Always remember that physical hunger develops gradually over time. There is a desire to eat various foods rather than one specific food in physical or actual need. If you are experiencing physical hunger, a portion of healthy food like an apple or carrot will satisfy it. If only chocolate will do, this is more likely to be related to a craving or emotional eating. Also, when you’re eating because you’re hungry and not because your emotionally eating, you stop once you feel satisfied. If you’re eating to satisfy hunger, you don’t feel guilty after eating, just happy and full.
Why can’t we stop emotional eating while we’re eating?
Negative emotions can lead to a feeling of emptiness. We are falsely perceived to be a way to create fullness in our minds. That’s why we tend to eat emotionally in the first place. However, the inability to stop eating in such scenarios is because of this false belief and the guilt of eating unhealthy food.
The realization that it’s unhealthy increases the cortisol levels in our brains which motivates the brain to eat more. The guilt of emotional eating creates anxiety, stress, and weakness which eventually upsets us and becomes the source of eating more. Hence, a never-ending cycle of emotional eating ensues. Now the question arises how to stop it? Right!
How To Stop Emotional Eating
Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a helpful technique that can help us become more in-tune with our food choices, including what we eat, how much we eat, and why. This will aid in weight reduction by better managing our portion sizes and remaining in touch with what our bodies need.
One of the primary goals of mindfulness practice is intentional and non-judgmental attention to one thing at a time. It would imply that you give your focus on the process of selecting, preparing, and eating your food, regardless of whether it’s a meal, snack, beverage, or anything in between.
Figure out your emotional eating triggers:
An excellent way to control this eating habit is by figuring out what causes you to eat more. Keep a food diary that wouldn’t record your eating patterns and the situations that made you eat. Once you can identify a habit, you can be more mindful of your food choices and when you choose to eat. It will assist you in setting achievable objectives.
Try to have momentary distractions:
One of the best ways to avoid emotional eating is to do things that momentarily distract you from overeating. For instance, when you’re going to eat without any plan or in a state of emotions, try to apply distraction. A concrete example is calling a friend or going outside for a five-minute walk to lessen stress chemicals production. Studies also show that just five minutes of exercise is more than enough to help anyone switch gears.
Emotional eaters may experience health problems because they don’t solve the real root of the problem. Instead, they choose food to comfort themselves. In the long run, such habits can have horrible consequences, so overcoming emotional eating is necessary.
Mindful eating has proven to be the best strategy to combat emotional eating. Start practicing mindful eating, and soon you will start seeing positive results. Start incorporating mindfulness while eating and during your everyday routine, and you will realize what mistakes you are making daily. It is these small changes that make you become a better version of yourself.
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