Do you ever find yourself in situations where you eat, because some feelings have overcome you and you feel that eating will help to deal with them? These feelings could range from sadness, heartbreak, anger, financial worries, or even just boredom. More often than not the feelings are negative ones. While emotional eating affects both sexes, studies show that emotional eating is more common among women than among men.
There are a lot of dangers associated with emotional eating. For one, it doesn’t solve the problem at hand. Those who tend to eat when they are feeling stressed or anxious are comforted by the feeling in their stomach that masks their emotions. Secondly, it can affect one’s self-esteem due to the sense of guilt and remorse after realising too much food has been eaten. Lastly, emotional eating may lead to weight-related problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, and high blood pressure.
The key is to find ways to relieve stress without overeating. How does it happen? When stress persists, the adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. The good news is that there are other ways to deal with your emotions, including meditation, exercise, and social support.
It is important to note that there is a difference between emotional eating and binge eating. Emotional eating refers to the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions. Binge eating, on the other hand, is the consumption of a lot of food in a short period of time. The person eating is not aware of the taste of the food or what is being eaten because they are eating so fast.
Here are 6 ways to manage emotional eating.
1. Consider the way in which you eat
When you catch yourself hovering around the kitchen and picking something to eat every so often, you need to pause and pay attention to how you are eating. What is causing you to pick up that extra slice of pizza? This can help you distinguish between hunger and emotional eating.
Emotional eating tries to reduce stress or boredom or reward, rather than satisfy hunger. It is linked to emotional hunger, which is sudden, and led by the head, not the stomach. It craves specific foods and isn’t satisfied, even when full. This can lead to feeling guilt which further fuels a negative cycle. Physical hunger, on the other hand, is emotion-free. It comes on gradually and is located in the stomach and is satisfied when full without any feelings of guilt.
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2. Look for any patterns
When you really sit down to analyse, there are almost always patterns in your emotional eating. Maybe it’s when there are problems at the office, or when you’re overwhelmed by a particular thing. As they say, the first step is acceptance, and once you can see through the triggers for your emotional eating you can work through the problem.
Triggers can also be internal, like thinking “This will never end” or rewarding the stress of homeschooling. Ask yourself questions like “What situations, and what kinds of food do I tend to go for?” then try to avoid acting on the triggers.
3. Put a note on the fridge at home
If you really want to manage emotional eating, then you may have to be a little hard on yourself. If you tend to reach for the fridge or the pantry, put a note in these places to act as a point of meditation for yourself. The note could read, “Is this visit to the fridge an emotional or physical visit?” and put a reminder on your phone such as “Have I eaten today in the way I would look after a loved one?”
4. Practise mindful eating
Have you ever had those moments where you eat, but then when you look back a few moments later you can’t really recall eating that food? This is a situation where you eat passively rather than mindfully. In such a scenario, you are likely to go back to the kitchen over and over again because you can’t really remember eating.
Mindful eating is an important tool to help us become more aware of what we’re eating, how much we’re eating, and why we’re eating it. In the long run, this can help with weight loss by controlling our portion sizes and staying in tune with what our body actually needs.
5. Eat consciously and deliberately
If you are aware that you have an issue with emotional eating, then you need to pay more attention to your eating habits. How, why, when, and what do you eat? This can help you to deny yourself the food, especially if your reasons are not valid enough.
One unpopular opinion that I hold is that you don’t need to eat just because it’s time to eat. You should eat when you are hungry. Avoid triggers by analysing the thinking and emotions connected to the food. Ask yourself questions like “Can I pause and ask if I’m actively choosing to eat this?”
6. Take away the guilt
We tend to be so hard on ourselves, especially when we are trying to break bad habits. This can easily kill your motivation and make you give up. You need to realise that ‘healing’ is not linear. There may be bad days, but as long as you are able to pick up yourself when you fail and carry on, that’s all that matters.
When it comes to emotional eating, one way to do this is to stop labelling foods as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘junk food’, or ‘treat.’ This can foster a negative relationship with food and create an ongoing cycle of comfort eating. Instead, there should be foods we enjoy every day and foods that we enjoy less often.
7. Talk to a therapist
As we have said, a lot of times emotional eating is used to mask the actual issue at hand. Doing this does not solve any problem, it just postpones it. You need to get to the root of your problems, this is the only permanent solution. Treatment for emotional eating involves becoming more aware of the triggers for your emotional eating and learning to adopt healthier emotion regulation strategies so that you can cope effectively with life stressors of difficult emotions.
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