When you’re sad, feel lonely, receive bad news, have a fight, whenever you are in any type of stressful situation, do you rush to the fridge (food app, restaurant) and treat yourself with something good just to feel a little better?
You are not alone and is called emotional eating.
Emotional eating is a term used to describe the act of consuming food as a response to negative emotions such as sadness, stress, boredom, or anxiety. Emotional eating can be a temporary coping mechanism for many people, but when it becomes a regular habit, it can lead to negative health consequences.
The Relationship between Emotions and Eating
Food can provide comfort and pleasure, which is why people may turn to it when they are feeling down. Eating can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which can create feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This can create a short-term sense of relief from negative emotions.
However, emotional eating is not a healthy long-term solution for dealing with negative emotions. Eating to cope with emotions can create a cycle where negative emotions lead to eating, which can then lead to feelings of guilt and shame, creating further negative emotions.
Emotional eating can also lead to overeating, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems. Overeating can lead to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
The Emotional Eating Triggers
There are many factors that can contribute to this eating disorder. Some common causes include:
- Stress: Stress can trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that can increase appetite and cravings for comfort foods and you end up stress eating.
- Boredom: When people are bored, they may turn to food as a source of entertainment or distraction.
- Negative Emotions: Negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, or loneliness can trigger a desire for comfort food.
- Social Pressure: Social situations can also contribute to emotional eating. For example, people may feel pressured to eat when they are out with friends or at social gatherings.
- Childhood Habits: Childhood experiences can also contribute to emotional eating habits. For example, if parents used food as a reward or punishment, children may learn to associate food with emotions.
- Health issues:To make ourselves feel good in a bad situation we sometimes eat comfort food.
How to Stop Emotional Eating
If you struggle with this disorder, there are steps you can take to overcome the habit and help you stop this eating habit. Here are some tips:
- Practice Mindful Eating: Mindful eating involves paying attention to the sensations of eating, such as the taste and texture of food, and being present in the moment while eating. This can help reduce the urge to eat in response to negative emotions.
- Meditate: Deep breathing is meditating. See also our guide to begin with meditation.
- Identify Triggers: Identifying the triggers that lead to emotional eating can help you anticipate and avoid those situations. For example, if you know that stress triggers your emotional eating, you can develop alternative coping mechanisms like exercise (going for a walk could do the trick), meditation or deep breathing.
- Seek Support: Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you identify the root causes of emotional eating and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Hypnosis could also be a short-term solution. Addressing the actual issue is actually the best way to address emotional eating.
- Develop Healthy Habits: Developing healthy habits like regular exercise and getting enough sleep can help reduce stress and negative emotions. A major gamechanger could be keeping exclusively healthy snacks around: protein bars no extra sugar, vegetable sticks with tahini dip, fresh whole season fruits and vegetables, stuff that needs to be cooked. Also, uninstall all the food apps.
- Practice Self-Compassion: It’s important to be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion when trying to overcome emotional eating habits. Remember that change takes time and effort, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.
Emotional eating is a common habit for many people, but it can have negative health consequences when it becomes a regular habit. Identifying the triggers that lead to emotional eating and developing healthy coping mechanisms can help break the cycle of negative emotions and heal the emotional eating.