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 the term that is being used to refer to a condition in which people use food not to satisfy their feelings of hunger but as a way to deal with their negative emotions. We all have done it at some point in our lives – eating because of boredom, or because you have felt a little down and think that chocolate might help the situation, instead of recognizing that feeling, where it comes from and dealing with it. However, when you practice this method on and on you grow closer and closer to emotional eating and all of the risks that come with it. Most often, it is the feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, disappointment, fear, etc. that are being stuffed away with food. Emotional eating brings the risks of depression, anxiety, binge eating, and obesity into your life, studies suggest. (1, 2, 3, 4).
When it comes to emotional eating, it is one thing that it causes damages to our mental health. But it also causes damages to our physical health if you think about it. One of the first choices for food in moments like these is empty calories – chocolate, ice cream, chips, cakes, etc. which are all nothing but a bunch of calories with nothing nutritional in them. All of these food choices are related to the risk of metabolic syndrome, which on its own can quite easily lead to diabetes type 2 and heart disease (5).
The biggest problem for many people is that they don’t know the difference between psychological or emotional and physical hunger. That’s why they overeat and gain weight but also find it difficult to slim down. In order to lose weight or keep it in a healthy range it’s vital to learn more about emotional versus physical hunger. Before we move on to symptoms of emotional hunger, we’re going to explain the difference between the two.
While physical hunger develops gradually psychological hunger occurs suddenly. Also, physical hunger is felt within your stomach while emotional kind is felt mostly in a person’s head or on the surface of their thoughts. When you’re physically hungry, you just want to eat and resolve the hunger which is why you’re open to different food options, but psychological hunger is usually more specific than that. Most importantly, physical hunger doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself.
As you can see, being emotionally hungry can lead to people mistaking it for actual hunger. Go through symptoms mentioned below to determine whether you also deal with emotional hunger.
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. Don’t despair! There’s a way out of this vicious circle. Although serious this problem is manageable with effective and well-structured strategy. 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.