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What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is a common struggle that many of us face. It’s when we turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves, and often reach for carbs, sweets or comforting and unhealthy foods. Emotional eating can make us feel guilty and powerless and can lead to weight gain. It’s important to understand that emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems; it just temporarily numbs them. But the good news is that it’s possible to break the cycle of emotional eating.
Are You An Emotional Eater?
Emotional eating is a common issue where individuals turn to food as a coping mechanism for emotional distress rather than satisfying physical hunger. You are likely to be an emotional eater if you answer “Yes, often” to most of the following questions.
- Are you reaching for food even when you’re not physically hungry or already full?
- Do you turn to food to make yourself feel better when you’re sad, angry, bored, anxious, etc.?
- When you’re feeling emotional, do you crave specific comfort foods such as junk food, sweets, or other unhealthy options?
- Do you find yourself eating without paying attention or thoroughly enjoying your food? a. Yes, often b. Sometimes c. No, not at all
- Do you feel guilty or powerless over your eating habits? a. Yes, often b. Sometimes c. No, not at all
- Are you eating to suppress or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions? a. Yes, often b. Sometimes c. No, not at all
The emotional eating cycle can be hard to break and it often leads to negative feelings of guilt, shame, and powerlessness. It’s important to understand that emotional eating is not a personal failure; it’s a complex issue that requires professional help to address the underlying emotional and psychological issues. Suppose you suspect that you might be an emotional eater. In that case, it’s a good idea to seek professional help from a therapist or a dietitian. They can provide you with the tools, guidance and support needed to break the emotional eating cycle and lead a healthier life.
Emotional and Physical Hunger
One of the vital steps in overcoming emotional eating is learning to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, is overwhelming and urgent, craves specific comfort foods, and often leads to mindless eating. Physical hunger comes on gradually, is open to different types of food and is mindful.
Emotional Eating and Triggers
It’s also essential to identify your triggers, which are the situations or emotions that lead you to emotional eating. Once you can discern and understand, you can develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with them, such as mindfulness, exercise, or talking to a friend.
It’s also crucial to have a support system, whether a therapist, dietitian, or support group. A therapist can help you understand the underlying emotional and psychological issues that contribute to emotional eating. A dietitian can provide you with nutrition education and support.
Recognising the underlying triggers that lead to emotional eating is essential in overcoming it. Triggers can come from situations, places, or feelings that make you reach for food as a source of comfort. It’s common for emotional eating to be uncomfortable but can also be triggered by positive emotions such as rewarding oneself or celebrating an event.
Some common causes of emotional eating include:
- Stress: With ongoing stress levels, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers cravings for unhealthy foods as a source of pleasure and energy.
- Suppressing emotions: Food can be used as a coping mechanism to stop and temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame.
- Social influences: Overeating in social situations can happen due to the presence of food, nervousness or pressure from others.
- Boredom or feelings of emptiness: Eating can be used to fill a void or give oneself something to do when feeling unfulfilled or empty.
- Childhood habits: Habits formed in childhood, such as being rewarded with food, can carry over into adulthood.
In summary, emotional eating is a common struggle that can make you feel guilty and powerless. But it’s possible to overcome emotional eating by understanding the difference between emotional and physical hunger, identifying your triggers, developing healthy coping mechanisms and having a support system.
Remember that it’s essential to seek help if you someone you love are struggling with emotional eating. Recovery is possible, and it’s important to remember that it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Reaching out for support can be the first step towards a healthier relationship with food and yourself. Reach out to a therapist, dietitian, or support group for help. They can provide the tools and guidance you need to overcome emotional eating and lead a happier, healthier life.
How Can Therapy Help With Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is a common issue that can lead to negative feelings of guilt, shame, and powerlessness. Therapy can be a valuable tool in addressing the underlying emotional and psychological issues that feed emotional eating. Working with a therapist, individuals can learn to understand their triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with them.
Here are some ways in which therapy can help with emotional eating:
- Understanding the underlying emotional and psychological issues: A therapist can help an individual understand the underlying emotional and psychological problems that contribute to emotional eating.
- Identifying triggers: A therapist can help an individual identify the situations or emotions that lead to emotional eating and develop strategies to avoid or manage them.
- Developing healthier coping mechanisms: A therapist can provide an individual with tools and techniques. A therapist can also help you to create more beneficial coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, exercise, or talking to a friend to deal with emotions instead of turning to food.
- Address negative thoughts and feelings: A therapist can help addressing negative thoughts and feelings, such as guilt and shame associated with emotional eating.
- Helping developing a more positive self-image and improving relationship with food and body: A therapist can help developing a more positive and healthy relationship with both.
Remember, seeking help for emotional eating is not a sign of weakness, it’s a courageous step towards a happier, healthier life