People tend to think that emotional eating happens because people lack control over their emotions. While this is a valid assumption, there is more to emotional eating that just not having control over oneself.
If emotional eating was just a lack of discipline then it could be controlled by following carefully calculated diets and strict meal plans but this doesn’t happen. Emotional eating occurs as a response to certain triggers and the majority of the time, we don’t know what it is that sets us off.
Psychologists have narrowed down the following 5 factors that contribute to emotional eating:
Do you ever eat without realizing that you’re still eating? This often happens when you stopped eating because you were full, yet you continue picking at the leftovers while note being completely conscious of it. You’ll find yourself doing this when you have something else on your mind, something else that is troubling and you unknowingly turn to food to suppress the rising conflict.
Food as a source of pleasure
There are many people out there who would claim that food is there sole source of pleasure and willingly indulge in it to wash away their worries. After a tough day at work, they help themselves to a tub of ice cream or order a juicy burger to eat as they watch TV by themselves on the weekends. Sugary foods and fatty foods, in particular, are favorites for indulgence. The reason for this is that such foods release opioids in our brains. Opioids are found in drugs such as heroin, cocaine and in other narcotics. They tend to be addictive and have a calming effect on your brain which is why your state of mind improves after you’ve had a chocolate, ice-cream etc. A lot of people rely on such foods to give them instant comfort but it isn’t the healthiest way of dealing with your problems – food should never be your only source of pleasure.
Inability to deal with emotions/problems
When you cried as a young child, there’s a good chance your parents comforted you with some candy. Your pediatrician did the same. From a very young age, we’re conditioned to soothe ourselves with food and it isn’t surprising that so many of us do the same when we’re older as well. All emotional eaters turn to food to give themselves a temporary relief from their problems. Whenever the temporary high you got from eating disappears, your problems will still be there unless you do something about them.
The logical thing to do when you’re unhappy with how heavy you’ve gotten is to watch what you eat and drop those extra pounds, right? But this doesn’t always happen. Numerous studies have shown that overweight individuals resort to eating even more after they begin getting stressed about their weight. The negativity that comes with fat-shaming very rarely inspires change. Instead, it pushes many individuals into a downwards spiral where they begin believing that nothing can be done about their weight and continue making poor diet choices.
If you haven’t been eating or sleeping properly your brains sends signals to your body, telling it to fuel itself. This manifests as cravings, causing you to eat more than you’re required to.
Emotional eating is unhealthy. Your over-reliance on food could send you to the path of obesity and depression.
Here’s how you can avoid emotional eating:
Deal with your problems
Yes, it’s easier said than done but you chowing down on food unnecessarily isn’t making your problems go away. Take a moment to accept your problems. Know that it is alright to feel scared, angry and sad but then think of how you’re going to deal with the problem. You may need to take some time to give yourself some clarity. Instead of finishing a bucket of ice-cream to give you that temporary relief, go to the gym instead. Exercise is a much better way to help you release tension and soothing your brain.
Don’t make food your only source of pleasure
Food can’t be your only source of happiness, it just can’t. Find yourself a hobby or a group of friends that bring you joy. Having a hobby helps you release some of the stress. Sharing your problems with loved ones and getting their advice/perspectives on your problems will always benefit you. You can’t run to food the moment you need something to cheer you up.
Eat and sleep on time
Emotional eaters do not eat on time which is why they are inclined to overeat. You need to be eating on time so your body knows that you aren’t in a state of starvation which causes you to overeat later. If you starve and then binge, your body becomes efficient in storing fat because it feels that you will be starving yourself later.
You need to be getting enough sleep so your body doesn’t turn to food in order to keep itself awake, so get yourself to bed on time and stop it with all those late nights on your phone/laptops.
Emotional eating may not seem like that big a problem but it can be if you make it a habit. It’s alright to indulge every now and them but once you make it a habit it can be tough to break and have a very negative impact on your health.