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When you hear the term Emotional Eating, you may imagine someone on the couch with a blanket and a bowl of ice cream, crying over a lover breaking their heart.
A tub of ice cream or a whole bar of chocolate later, and the person is content and feeling better relative to how they were earlier. It may seem like a phase that people eventually move on from or outgrow as time passes, but Emotional Eating has claws that dig deep and the health risks associated with it are far too many to ignore.
There are days when your strongest food cravings come at you when you're emotionally compromised. The feeling of being sad or depressed may force you to gravitate towards food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously. It doesn't have to be a feeling of loneliness, sometimes being stressed out or just being bored will trigger a psychological hunger. When you eat despite not being hungry, and you do this frequently, that's what you call emotional eating.
Emotional eating is defined as the consumption of food in response to emotional events in your life. While it was defined as eating based on solely on negative emotions (loneliness, fear, anxiety, helplessness, etc.), recent findings also suggest positive emotions are factors too. It is considered a potential health risk because studies have linked it to unnecessary weight gain, binge eating, and even depression (1-4).
One of the biggest problems with emotional eating, aside from having an uncontrollable need to eat, are the food choices emotional eaters pick. Ice cream, chocolates and candies, chips and dip, pastries and cakes, these are all high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods with little to no nutritional value. The nature of the common foods consumed risk emotional eaters to health risks related to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health issues that can potentially lead to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes (5).
Being emotionally hungry can lead to people mistaking it for actual hunger. Here are some ways to tell if you're emotionally eating.
If there's an effect, there's a cause. In order for something to happen, something else must make it happen. It's the same with emotional eating, it just doesn't happen randomly. Here are some of the factors that may influence and trigger emotional eating.
Acknowledging you have an eating disorder is the first step in curing and preventing it from happening again. Denial will only make it worse over time and it will come to a point where you would end up with diseases that have the potential to be life threatening. If you think you or a loved one have emotional eating problems, we compiled a list of ways to curb the problem and make regain full control of your body.
The general idea behind emotional eating treatment is enabling the person to develop a healthier relationship with food in the form of better eating habits, trigger recognition, and ways to prevent or reduce the chances of succumbing to food.
Much of the treatment involve mental and psychological ways to curb the eating disorder, but there are also suggestions with regards to putting up physical barriers for yourself.
If you’ve tried every suggestion and self-help options available and you still can’t quite get a hold of your emotional eating problem, perhaps you should consider expert help.
Since emotional eating is more of a mental health problem, you would do well to seek a psychological therapist or any other mental health professional.
Going through therapy can help you understand why you’re an emotional eater and quite possibly trace the reasons and hidden triggers you may not be aware of.
Emotional eating is considered a quick and easy way to relieve oneself from life’s many challenges. The problem lies in the challenges in life that we don’t fix or find a solution to. If we don’t fix those issues, emotional eating will become more frequent until it spirals out of control.
To stop this cycle, you have to find it in yourself to not just be accountable with when, what, and how much you eat, but also try and improve your life in such a way that you will less likely succumb to emotional eating.