Emotional eating, as the name suggests, is a way to deal with your emotions through eating. While we all engage in this tendency from time to time, if it becomes excessive, repetitive, or threatens your health, it might be time to seek help and stop emotional eating. But how do you go about changing this tendency?
To answer this question, let us first look at some common root causes of emotional eating.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating, firstly, is caused by overwhelming emotions. One might be unaware of their feelings and unconsciously seek food to distract themselves. Secondly, one may be aware of their feelings but unable to identify, understand, and “name” what they feel. One might also be in a state where one cannot control their emotions.
Finally, an under-activity of cortisol levels in the body might also result in the same. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates the “flight or fight or freeze” response in the nervous system.
The primary emotion behind this condition is stress. Sources of stress include financial problems, family life, work environment, relational conflict, significant life changes, etc.
Emotional eating is not considered an eating disorder but can develop into one. It is a form of disordered eating, which is characterized by the following:
-rigid eating patterns,
-labeling food right and wrong,
-dieting or food restriction,
-eating due to emotions rather than hunger,
-irregular meal timing, etc.
Eating releases dopamine(the feel-good neurotransmitter), an act necessary for survival. We are hardwired to derive pleasure from food. Other unhealthy coping methods through distraction-dopamine include social media, sleeping too much, substance abuse, and compulsive spending.
Telling apart emotional hunger from physical or actual hunger can be tricky, but it’s possible. Emotional hunger can occur if you don’t eat much in a day or haven’t eaten for a long time. Such hunger occurs instantaneously and isn’t concerned with your appetite and fullness. On the other hand, physical hunger builds up over time, and the feeling of fullness or emptiness is identifiable. It depends on the time you last ate, while emotional hunger depends on the mood.
Read more: Best foods that fight depression
How To Stop Emotional Eating?
1. Increase Awareness of Your Body And Emotions
You can become more aware of your body and emotions through meditation, mindfulness, and observation in daily life. This awareness can help you quickly identify the difference between the two types of hunger and control the urge to eat emotionally.
2. Learn Healthy Ways To Cope With Emotions
Healthy ways of coping include physical and emotional self-care, time spent with loved ones, resting, relaxing, or doing nothing, connecting with a community, etc.
3. Exercise In Your Spare Time
According to multiple studies, exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, reduces the risk of heart disease, and strengthens the body. It also uplifts your mood, making you less likely to eat emotionally, and makes it easier to become aware of physical hunger.
Read more: 7 anti-anxiety foods you must try
Emotional eating refers to consuming food to cope with negative emotions, especially stress and anxiety. It is characterized as a form of disorderly eating. Consuming food releases dopamine in your body, giving you instant pleasure and distraction from difficult emotions. Emotional hunger, unlike physical hunger, is instantaneous, depends on your mood, and isn’t fulfilled through the feeling of “fullness.” So, how to stop emotional eating?
To overcome emotional eating, you can start by being more mindful of your body and emotions, learning healthier ways to cope with your feelings, and exercising in your free time. But stress can often be too overwhelming to hinder normal functioning. In that case, you should opt for therapy. Here’s our list of the top five affordable online therapy platforms if you’re unsure where to start.
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