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Healthy Food

How to stop emotional eating?

Are you eating to relieve stress or feel better? 

What is emotional eating?

Not all food is meant to satisfy our physical hunger. Many people turn to food to comfort themselves, relieve stress, or reward themselves. We tend to reach out for unhealthy, junk food and sweets when we feel like it. If you feel down, you might reach for an ice cream pint, order a pizza when you are lonely or stop by the drive-thru after a long day at work.

Emotional eating refers to using food to feel better, not just for your stomach. Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. It can make you feel worse. You feel guilt for overeating, and the emotional problem that caused it will resurface.

Emotional eating cycles

Sometimes, food can be used to pick me up, as a reward, or to celebrate. If eating becomes your primary emotional coping mechanism, when your first instinct is to reach for the fridge whenever you feel stressed, upset, angry or lonely, or if you are bored, then it can lead to a vicious cycle in which the true problem or feeling is not addressed.

Emotional hunger cannot be satisfied with food. While eating may seem good at the time, the emotions that prompted the eating can still be felt. You often feel worse because you ate more calories than before. You feel guilty for not being more determined, and you beat yourself up about it.

You stop learning healthy ways to manage your emotions and find it harder and harder to control your weight. This makes you feel even more powerless over your feelings and food. It is possible to make positive changes, no matter how powerless or ineffective you feel about food and feelings. There are healthier ways to manage your emotions, overcome triggers, conquer cravings and stop emotional eating.

Difference between physical and emotional hunger

To break the cycle of emotional eating, it is important to understand how to tell the difference between physical and emotional hunger. This can be more difficult than you think, especially if your primary motivation is to eat.

It’s easy for people to confuse emotional hunger with physical hunger. There are signs you can use to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger.

It’s sudden

It strikes you suddenly, and it feels overwhelming and urgent. The physical hunger comes on gradually, however. If you haven’t eaten in a while, the urge to eat won’t be as strong or urgent.

Comfort foods are what your emotional hunger seeks

Physical hunger can make almost any food sound good, even healthy foods like vegetables. Emotional hunger craves sugary snacks or junk food that give you an immediate rush. It feels like you must have pizza or cheesecake.

Emotional hunger can lead to mindless eating

Before you know it, you have eaten a lot of chips and ice cream. You don’t even pay attention to what you eat or how much you enjoy it. You’re more conscious of what you are doing when you eat in response to physical hunger.

Emotional hunger doesn’t stop when you are full

You eat until you feel uncomfortably full. However, physical hunger doesn’t have to be satisfied. When your stomach is full, you feel satisfied.

Your emotional hunger doesn’t reside in your stomach

You feel your hunger like a strong craving that you can’t seem to get rid of. Your attention is on certain textures, tastes, or smells.

Emotional hunger can lead to guilt, shame, and regret

Your body is satisfied by what you give it. You may feel guilty about eating after you have eaten. This is likely because you realize that you are not eating for nutrition.

Identify your emotional eating triggers

First, identify your triggers for emotional eating. What are your triggers? Are there certain situations, people, or emotions that make you crave comfort food? Emotional eating is often associated with negative emotions. However, it can also be triggered when you are happy or rewarded for reaching a goal.

Common reasons for emotional eating

1. Stress

Stress can make you feel hungry. Stress isn’t just in your head. Your body can produce high cortisol levels when stress is persistent, which is common in today’s chaotic and fast-paced world. Cortisol can trigger a craving for sweet, salty, and fried foods. These foods give you energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress you have in your life, the more likely you will turn to food as a source of emotional relief.

2. Stuffing emotions

You can temporarily suppress or “stuff down,” unhappiness by eating. This includes anger, fear and sadness as well as anxiety, loneliness, resentment and shame. You can avoid difficult emotions by numbing your body with food.

3. Boredom and feelings of emptiness

Are you someone who eats to make yourself feel better, relieve boredom or fill a void in the life of another person? Food is a way to fill your stomach and occupy your time. It fills you up in the moment and distracts from deeper feelings of dissatisfaction and purposelessness about your life.

4. Childhood habits

Recall your childhood memories about food. Your parents may have given you sweets, taken you out to eat when you did well on your report cards, or rewarded you with ice cream. These behaviors can carry on into adulthood. You may also be motivated by nostalgia, such as fond memories of baking cookies or grilling burgers outside with your dad.

5. Social influences

It can be a great way of reducing stress and it can lead to overeating. Overindulging can be easy because there is food available or because everyone is eating. Nervousness can also lead to overeating in social settings. Perhaps your friends or family encourage you to eat more, so it’s easier just to be with them.

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Joseph M. Kay

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