Emotional Eating: Do You Find Comfort In Food When Upset?

Emotional Eating: the practice of finding comfort in food is common and if unregulated can lead to eating complications. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can cope up with emotional eating.

Do you find yourself reaching for a bar of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream when you are upset? Well, finding comfort in food is common and is part of a practice called Emotional Eating.

People who emotionally eat are found to do so several times a week to suppress their negative feelings. They may later regret on doing so and this becomes a vicious cycle leading to multiple eating disorders and weight related stress

Emotional eating, why do we do it?

What causes someone to eat emotionally? Anything from work stress to financial woes, health issues and even relationship struggles can be the root cause of emotional eating. It’s an issue which affects both sexes, but is more common in women than in men.

Why does one reach for food?

Well, negative emotions may lead to a feeling of emotional void and food is believed to be a way to fill that void and create a false feeling of fullness or temporary wholeness.

Hence, when we are upset we often look for sweets, because sugar releases dopamine which makes us temporarily happy.

How can we differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger?

Well, emotional hunger comes about suddenly where you crave for only certain foods. You may binge on a certain food and later feel guilty or ashamed for doing so.

So how can one stop emotional eating? Here is a step-by-step guide on:

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How you can cope up with emotional eating

  • Get away – Try to get out of the kitchen or move away from the fridge the moment you feel you are about to reach for food. Maintaining a distance with food will help you clear your head.
  • Find other ways to cope up with stress – The moment you feel the urge to binge on a packet of chips or dig into that ice cream tub, distracted yourself. Get busy. You could write in a journal, read a book or even meditate. Find what works for you.
  • Get busy– five minutes is all you need to find a solution to your stress. Call up a friend or family member and vent up your emotions. Immerse yourself in some activity like a walk or run if it’s boredom that is prompting you to eat.

Some people find relief in regular exercise. Studies have proved that regular exercise helps in diffusing emotional states like anxiety and depression, and this prevents emotional eating.

  • Start a food diary – Start maintaining a food diary where you jot down what triggers you to emotional eating. You can write down what emotions you are feeling when you binge. This might help you later to avoid emotional eating once you address your real emotions and find ways to cope up with them.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Making sure that you get enough nutrients to fuel your body is the key. It will help you differentiate between true and emotional hunger.

If you eat well throughout the day, you will be able to spot when you are eating out of boredom or negative feelings. Still having trouble? Try to reach for healthy snacks like fruits, carrots, cucumber, yoghurt and satiate your emotional hunger.

  • Remove common offenders out of your pantry – Once you know what food you binge on when you are stressed or bored, make a list of those and avoid buying them next time you go grocery shopping.

It could be chips, ice cream, chocolates or snacks. Keeping the foods out of reach when you’re emotional will help you break the cycle and reach for healthier foods.

  • Treat yourself – Each time you succeed in avoiding a binge, reward yourself. It could be a dress, a book or any non-food related items. The more you ignore emotional hunger, the better you will be at resisting it forever.
  • So if you are one of those who reach out to a packet of chips when you feel bored or stressed, I’m sure you will be able to overcome it by practising measures I have mentioned.

Emotional eating if left unaddressed can lead to binge-eating disorders. It is important to seek medical help if your eating patterns are out of control. You may be referred to a dietitian who will help you address both the mental and physical side of emotional eating.

Image source: Alena Darmel, from pexels, free on CanvaPro

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About the Author

dietitian Nilofar

I am a dietitian by profession,blogger by passion. I regularly blog on health,fitness and mental and physical wellbeing.For more such interesting articles watch this space. read more...

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