Emotional Eating: Does Emotional Eating Really Exist and How To Overcome It?

Emotional Eating: Does Emotional Eating Really Exist and How To Overcome It

We have all experienced emotional eating on occasion- right? Whether it be that late night trip to the fridge or stocking up on some tasty munchies on a cold winter’s night, sometimes we eat because it comforts us. After all, food and eating are one of the pleasures of life and when we cuddle up with a good book or movie, and start enjoying our favorite snack, we enjoy it. It is not that uncommon, is it? Yet, the question remains as to when does this type of eating go beyond the acceptable norms and start leading into dangerous territory. Can this type of eating be considered emotional eating? Let’s explore what emotional eating really is and how can we, as a society, overcome it.

One of my first articles on my blog relates to the obesity epidemic and how we are seeing it at an all time high. Many experts have been talking for years about the connection between loneliness and overeating. We use food to nourish and nurture ourselves. It is one of the most obvious ways to fill us up or make us feel whole again. So, why is loneliness connected to overeating? We don’t always eat to satisfy our physical hunger. Many of us turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves for a job well done. You might reach for that pint of ice cream if you are depressed, or that whooping piece of cake if you are lonely, or swing by the drive-through after a stressful day and order a meal that may not be the most healthful for us. Emotional eating is using food to help us feel better- improve our mood and provide a temporary fix to a problem that may be affecting us on a deeper level.

The problem is, unfortunately, emotional eating does not fix emotional problems. In fact, it usually makes people feel worse. Afterwards, people are not only still filled with the emotional problem, but the guilt of overeating or making some poor food choices that make people feel worse. Let me explain- occasionally celebrating for an event with food or having a night to yourself where you can enjoy eating whatever you wish, is fine on occasion. It is when it becomes a compulsive behavior that we experience the turmoil that goes along with it and there is where “emotional eating” lurks its ugly head. This is when we see people get stuck in a vicious cycle where the deeper emotional issue may never get addressed. It is masked by finding comfort in food and eating that ultimately leads to becoming overweight, or possibly obese.

Essentially, food may help mask emotions at first, but afterwards there are usually feelings of guilt or regret. The goal is to seek alternative ways to deal with emotions and stress like exercise, peer support, and mindful eating habits. It is so critical that we do our best to find an activity or support group, as well as develop mindful eating habits, to overcome the difficulties of emotional eating. Several important techniques to keep in mind once we work on addressing the emotional eating will be helpful in combating this type of behavior. These include start a food diary, eat a healthy diet, clean your pantry, seek support, work on positive self-talk, and practice mindful eating habits. Let’s take a look at each of these great techniques to overcome emotional eating.

1) Keeping a food diary or food journal is a great idea for staying on top of the foods that you are eating. Log everything that you eat and write down the emotions you are feeling at the moment. This record will help you understand if there are certain times of the day that you are eating more and you can associate the emotion behind that eating once recorded. There are also apps such as MyFitnessPal, as well as others, that you can quickly record food on to keep on track of your eating habits.

2) Try and Eat As Healthy As Possible – Making sure that you get enough nutrients to fuel your body is also key. It is difficult to distinguish between true hunger, and stress or emotional hunger. If you eat well throughout the day, it will make it easier to notice when you are eating out of boredom or feelings of depression. WATCH your carbohydrate intake as many times people only focus on low-fat and low-calorie. Controlling Carbohydrates are key to weight loss. Reach for healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetables, plain popcorn (no butter), and other low fat, low carbohydrate type foods.

3) Portion Control – Controlling portions is vital in curtailing your eating plan and make sure to measure out portions. Restaurant style portions are usually double, or triple, the size in many cases so familiarizing yourself with proper portion size is key. For example, a fist size of meat is appropriate and using smaller plates help lead to smaller portion sizes. Drink water with yours meals and take your time eating. Before reaching for seconds, give yourself some time and ask yourself if you are truly still hungry. If you are not, refrain from taking second helpings and be mindful of what you are eating in the moment!

4) Clean your Pantry – Throw away or donate any foods in your cupboards that you often reach for during moments of stress. If you start keeping these foods out of reach when you are emotional, it can help break this emotional eating pattern and set up an environment that is more conducive to your optimal health and goals.

5) Seek Support – Yes, we all experience moments of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, depression and it is important to try and seek out support during these pivotal times in life. Try to resist being alone in moments of sadness and anxiety to make it easier. Find other groups in your area by searching social sites such as meetup groups. These can be like-minded individuals that you may share a common interest in looking to network with others and build a support system. Overeaters Anonymous is a group that effectively deals with emotional eating, compulsive eating, and other eating disorders. Look them up online and reach out. Support is crucial to success in any worthwhile endeavor in life!

6) Work on Positive Self-Talk- Work on staying positive, compassionate, and speak nicely to yourself. Often times, we can be our own worst critics in life and have a tendency to talk negatively to ourselves and criticize. Stop and try not to. Speak more kindly to yourself and have compassion. Practice working on developing self-love which is so important to our overall joy and success.

7) Develop Mindful Eating Habits- In certain cultures, such as Japan, people really pay attention to the foods, savory textures, smell, and enjoyment of the eating experience. Instead of quickly finishing your food, chew it slowly, taking 10-30 bites before swallowing and enjoy the taste, smell, different flavors/textures, and most importantly, the overall eating experience. Yes, we need food to survive, but we also enjoy delicious food to nourish us and make us strong! Focus more on mindful eating to let you enjoy the experience and use your intuition to know if you are truly satiated or crave seconds.

Overall, food is nourishing and appetizing and we should appreciate it, not overindulge and develop bad habits from emotional eating. If you know you are at a stage where your eating has gone beyond the acceptable norm, get the social support and help that you are looking for. Whether it be overeaters anonymous, a social support meetup group, a registered dietitian (such as myself), or a therapist to help you deal with the emotional issues that may be contributing to overeating and emotional eating, seek out the help and utilize all resources! “Take care of your body as you only have one” is important to live by and I encourage all for their efforts on their weight loss journeys, as well as their courageous journeys through this ever-changing world that we live in. Stay strong and positive and guard your energy!

Contact Maria at Nutrition Wellness (901)321-5033 for a nutrition consult today or book a consult online at https://mariakrd.com . Get started on your weight loss journey and transform into the best version of yourself!

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