Welcome to the world of emotional eating – where your feelings and food collide.
Do you race to the pantry when you feel down or otherwise upset? You’re not alone. It’s common for people to turn to food for comfort as a coping skill to cope with big, difficult feelings.
Stress can control your emotional eating habits. Sometimes the strongest food cravings hit when you’re at your weakest point emotionally. If you are an emotional eater then this blog will help you with clear strategies backed by expertise to help you conquer this challenge.
What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional Eating–Yes this sounds like something straight out of a relatable meme. However, it can be a real challenge for one. We don’t always eat just to satisfy hunger. Many of us also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves. And when we do, we tend to reach for junk food, sweets, and other comforting but unhealthy foods. You might reach for a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, order a pizza if you’re bored or lonely, or swing by the McDonald’s drive-through after a stressful day at work.
Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better—to fill emotional needs, rather than your stomach. Unfortunately, stress eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. It usually makes you feel worse. Afterward, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating and you start gaining weight.
How do You get Back on Track?
It can be hard to change a habit like emotional eating, but it is possible. Below are some ways to help you cope.
Keep a Food Diary:
One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind your emotional eating is to keep track of a food diary. The more you understand how you feel when you do certain things, the better your chance of changing things. Once you identify your emotional eating triggers, the next step is identifying healthier ways to feed your feelings. This is also gonna help you in weight loss.
Tame Your Stress:
If stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Instead of turning to food, explore stress-relief techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or a quick walk around campus.
Have a Hunger Reality Check:
Ask yourself are you hungry or just emotional? Is your hunger physical or emotional? Your stomach might not be grumbling if you just ate a few hours ago. Give the craving time to pass. If it’s not physical hunger, find an alternative way to address the emotion.
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.
Don’t Deprive Yourself:
Self-deprivation can be destructive for individuals. This may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions. Eat satisfying amounts of healthier foods, enjoy an occasional treat, and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.
The Difference Between Emotional Hunger and Physical Hunger
Humans must eat to live. It’s natural to need food and to desire certain tastes or textures.
You may wonder how to tell the difference between emotional and physical hunger cues. It can be tricky. Sometimes, it’s a combination of both.
Emotional eating is more likely to occur if you have not eaten for a few hours or don’t eat enough during the day. You can tell the difference by looking at these clues.
Emotional hunger comes suddenly:
Physical hunger develops slowly while emotional hunger goes on suddenly.
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods:
The major difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger is the ‘Comforting Food’. You crave specific foods when you are emotional. As an example, if you are PMSing, you will crave ice cream or chocolate.
Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating:
Emotional eating has nothing to do with mindful eating. So it is important to be mindful of the kind of snacks you are buying. Certain foods are more likely to trigger emotional eating. When you feel stressed, eat healthy snacks.
Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full:
In physical hunger, one can feel the sensation of fullness and take it as a sign to stop eating. However, in Emotional eating, individuals can not notice fullness and they don’t prevent themselves from wanting to eat more.
Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach:
Physical hunger is always tied to the last time you ate while Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. It is triggered by the urge to eat.
Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame:
Emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. It usually makes you feel worse. Afterward, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating.
Common Causes of Emotional Eating
Emotional eating has many root causes.
Deadlines, academic pressure, and excessive workload can make you eat in stress. If you are stuck in this cycle, the easiest way is to find other stress-coping mechanisms. Fidget toys would be a good option.
Sometimes social relations can make our mood bad and our emotions start overflowing. We eat to surpass emotions we don’t want to face. It’s always a good idea to seek support from a friend or family member.
Boredom or Feelings of Emptiness:
When we feel unfulfilled and empty, food is a great way to occupy our mouths and minds. In the moment, it fills up and distracts us from underlying feelings of purposelessness. However, Engaging and paying attention to fulfilling activities can counteract this.
Childhood habits can often carry over into adulthood. In childhood it’s normal to associate treats with achievement however it is necessary to rewire this connection. As a grown-up, learn to disassociate treats with comfort.
Peer pressure and social gatherings can lead to mindless eating. Focus on connecting with friends without making food the central focus. It’s crucial to stop emotional eating.
If you’ve tried self-help options but you still can’t control emotional eating, consider therapy with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and learn coping skills. Therapy can also help you discover whether you have an eating disorder, which can be connected to emotional eating. Gaining control over emotional eating isn’t about denying yourself pleasure or comfort. It’s about recognizing your triggers, addressing your emotions in healthier ways, and making conscious food choices.