Written by: Brandi Monasco
We’ve all had bad days where absolutely nothing has gone right.
Your car broke down, your kid got sick, your husband broke his leg; it was just a downright bad day.
All you want is something to help you feel comforted and better about whatever is going on, so you turn to eating.
This is called emotional eating.
Emotional eating is turning to food when you need comfort or relief from stress, rather than eating because you are actually hungry. Using food from time to time as a reward, to celebrate, or even as a pick-me-up isn’t bad, but when you are eating primarily to feel comforted or to “fix” a problem or issue, that is when it could turn into a bad thing.
Eating that hamburger might make you feel good while you’re eating it, but it won’t really fix your problem and you will be left wanting to eat more.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if you are an emotional eater:
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you eat when you’re feeling stressed or upset?
- Do you eat to feel better, like when you’re sad or mad?
- Does food make you feel safe, as if it were a friend?
Emotional hunger makes you crave specific foods. When you’re actually hungry (have physical hunger), anything sounds good – even that head of broccoli.
When you have emotional hunger, you crave specific foods, usually those “comfort foods” like hamburgers, cookies, cakes, etc. You feel like you’re in a rush to get that piece of cake because you “need” to eat it.
When you have emotional hunger, it typically comes on suddenly. The hunger hits you fast and you have an overwhelming sensation of getting to that bag of cookies. You “have” to have it right then.
Emotional hunger leads to mindless eating. You think that you will just have one or two of those cookies, but before you know it, you have finished the entire bag. This is because you’re not really paying attention to or enjoying what it is that you are eating. You are just eating to satisfy that craving and to help comfort yourself.
Emotional hunger doesn’t satisfy you once you are full. Instead, you keep wanting more and more, so you end up eating until you feel miserable and are uncomfortably full. When you have physical hunger, you are satisfied when your stomach is full and happy.
Identify What Your Triggers Are
Identifying what your triggers are to emotionally eat is the first step in stopping it.
- Childhood habits, such as your parents rewarding you with ice cream or pizza
Find Other Alternatives
If you feel like you need to eat because you’re bored or stressed, find other things to do to get your mind off of thinking about food.
- If you’re bored – Read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie, do your favorite hobby.
- If you’re tired – Take a hot bath or shower, drink a warm cup of tea, take a nap.
- If you’re depressed or feeling lonely – Call a friend or someone that makes you feel better, play with your cat or dog, take a short walk.
To stop emotional eating entirely, you also need to practice and learn how to eat mindfully.
Be aware of what you buy, how you buy and how you prepare your food.
Be aware of physical hunger and emotional hunger cues. There ARE differences.
Choose foods that give you nourishment as well as enjoyment.
Learn to meet your emotional needs in other ways.
By learning to control your emotional food cravings, you will be able to eat more mindfully and not eat that entire bag of cookies. Eating mindfully may even help you lose weight and reduce your risk of illness and disease.
Have any other tips for reducing the desire to emotionally eat? Please share with us in the comments below!
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