Today I caught myself eating, helplessly. So I sat down and wondered, why? What makes a person with any physique, eat till it hurts?
This is what doctors call emotional eating – the situation where someone is eating without really being hungry. Have you experienced it?
Truth is, we don’t generally eat essentially to fulfill hunger. Food can also be our comfort, stress relief, or as even celebration. I remember a friend of mine going to meeting and then to celebrate the outcome went for a beer and bought 12 doughnuts! Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t correct problems that arise from emotions. When you eat unsensibly, you feel guilty for overeating on top of that.
Lets Understand emotional eating
Have you ever been full but made room for dessert or dunk yourself into a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling blue? That’s emotional eating. It is the simple “transaction” of making using food to make yourself feel better—eating to fill emotional needs, rather than to fill your stomach.
It is not bad to consume a little bit of food as a rewardor to celebrate something. However, if you turn eating to an emotional coping mechanism—that is, when your first reaction to a problem would be to open the refrigerator —you start a viscious and unhealthy cycle of over consuming food, making you fat, where the real problem you have is not addressed.
Do you make the following mistakes?
- Do you eat when you go through stress?
- Do you eat to feel better in a bad or boring situation?
- Do you eat food as a reward? (I do)
- Do you eat everything on your plate, even if you are full?
- Do you eat food and you see it as your friend? Do you get comfort eating?
- Do you see food and feel compelled or an urge to eat, even if you are not hungry?
Here is the difference between being emotional hungry and actually being hungry
Want to disengage yourself from being an emotional eater? You must first learn to recognise how to identify what is emotional and actual hunger. Its not as simple as you think, but you can do it!
Here are some tricks to use and identify emotional hunger:
- It comes to you in an instant: you immediately feel that you want to eat – you see that chicken, the pie, the icecream, you want to eat it. On the other hand, actual hunger, comes at a slower pace.
- You crave unhealthier foods. When you feel the feeling of emotional hunger, you immediately want to eat something fatty, like the fried potatoes you smell, the pizza you see on an advert, or anything sugary.
- You become a mindless eater. You see that bags of crisps, or the bag of peanuts, and suddently, nothing is there – its all in your stomach. The sad thing is that you didn’t even enjoyed it.
- Feeling full but not satisfied. You just want more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed.
- You feel regret, guilt, and even shame. When you are actually hungry, you just need to satisfy your stomach. But when you eat emotionally, you feel guilty after you eat, knowing it is not fuel to your body but something else you can’t control.
The first step to stop emotional eating: Identify what makes you eat.
The first step identifying what makes you an emotional eater is the hardest one. Have you considerd what kind of situations, or places or feelings you have at the time you reach for food?
Here are some factors to start noting down:
- Stress – Does stress makes you hungry? If you suffer from chronc stress, this leads to body to naturally produce high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol makes you want sweet, salty, and high-fat foods—the same foods that give you a boost of energy.
- Burying emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily bury uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame.
- Being bored – Sometimes you eat simply just do something or as a way to fill a void. If for any reason you feel unfulfilled and empty, food may find its way to fill your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.
- Social gatherings – Those after work lunches or dinners, the weekends with friends and family is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating.
The Second Step to Emotional Eating: Feed your feelings differently
You do not need to eat in order to full yourself emotionally. Waht you need is to replaced food with other stuff to fill your void.
Here are the alternatives to food:
- Depressed or lonely? if you have a pet, play with it, talk to eat and respond it is love. Give a call to someone willing to listen to you and strike a conversation. Think some happy thoughs and lose yourself into a good book. By all means, if you watch television, do not reach to the fridge.
- Are you anxious or nervous? Put your favorite music on and start dancing. Leave your house for 15 minutes and take a fast paced walk. The frehs air, even if you live at the center of the city will calm you.
- Exhausted? Prepare yoru self a nice hot cup of mountain tea. Fill your bath with warm water and immmerse yourself there, listening to piano music.
- Bored? Get an nice book and immerce yourself into it. Watch a comedy show or leave the couch and try to do a hobby – scrapbooking, card making, sewing.
Sleep more to lower your cravings and incidentaly…your weight.
If you are not getting enough sleep, you will notice that your body starts want more food. This happens because it feels tired and needs a boost of energy – its a natural outcome. Which means – if you do not enough sleep you gain weight.
When don’t get the sleep you need, a hormone which stimulates apppetite called ghrelin goes up, so you want more food than you would normally need, and your other hormone, leptin, which tells the brain when you are full, goes down, meaning you don’t feeling full and want to keep eating. So, the more sleep you skip, the more food you need.
Bottom line – getting enough rest is vital for your body to replenish and refresh— sleeping from seven hours or more of uninteruppted quality sleep is the best gift you can do to your body
These are the two best tips you can get to immediately identify and distinguish if you are an emotional eater. If you are, post below your experience, we would love to interview you!