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Emotional Eating: Why You Do It & How To Stop

You’ve had a rough day. Or maybe you recently went through a particularly turbulent break-up. The ice cream tub has become your best friend.

Maybe you always find yourself turning to food for comfort. It helps you cope with stress, loneliness, and boredom. It tastes good and it never lets you down.

But recently, you’ve been wanting to put your health first. You’ve started focusing on your nutrition and mental health. And you’ve slowly begun to realize: You might be an emotional eater.

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is eating food in response to your emotions rather than your hunger. And interestingly, experts theorize that about 75% of overeating is due to emotional eating.

Okay - so what’s the difference exactly between emotional eating and eating because you’re actually hungry?

Glad you asked! Here are the major differences between the two:

  • Emotional eating comes on suddenly. Whereas, physical hunger is more gradual. If you suddenly have an urgent and dire need to eat, it may be emotionally-driven.
  • Emotional eating often involves cravings. You crave after a specific junk food or comfort food. You need that bag of chips - nothing else will suffice! When you’re physically hungry, almost any food sounds good.
  • When you emotionally eat, you barely even remember where that tub of ice cream or bag of chips disappeared to. But when you’re physically hungry, you’re normally more aware and mindful of your eating habits.
  • Emotional eating is not being satisfied when you’re full. You stuff yourself silly. Then, you don’t feel all that great again. When you’re eating because you’re hungry, you usually stop yourself when you’re full.
  • Emotional eating is based on your feelings. You don’t feel that usual stomach growl. Instead, you may feel a void or an obsession with a certain smell or taste.
  • If you emotionally eat, you may feel guilty afterward. This is a clear sign that something needs to change. It’s time to put your health first and dig into solving your bad eating habits once and for all!

How Do You Know You’re an Emotional Eater?

Maybe you went through the above points. You’re going back and forth on it. Sure, some of them are true for you. Some of them aren’t.

Ask yourself the following questions…

  • Do you often eat more when you’re stressed out?
  • Do you eat to fill a void?
  • Do you eat because you’re bored?
  • Does food give you a sense of comfort and security?
  • Do you view food as a type of reward?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might be an emotional eater.

But how do you stop it?

Quitting Your Emotional Eating Habits Once & For All

Nutrition and wellness go hand-in-hand, as does nutrition and mental health. After all, you are what you eat (kind of). Getting a handle on your health also involves getting a handle on your nutrition.

It’s not just about self-control. Emotional eating might have manifested in your childhood or as a way to fill a space where something is missing.

Sometimes individuals emotionally eat to escape. It’s a way to hide from their emotions. They literally “stuff” their emotions down via the food they eat. And when you’re feeling incredible anger, sadness, shame, loneliness, or anxiety, it can quickly get out of control.

Other times, it’s simply because a person is bored. It’s something to do - something that provides fulfillment in a simple way.

And lastly, childhood habits and socializing may drive emotional eating. Depending on how you grew up, you may view food as a reward. Further, if you become anxious in social situations, you may overeat in order to have something to do with your hands. It’s also easy to overeat when everyone else is ordering food.

So, how do you deal?

They say the best way to break a habit is to replace it. This is somewhat true when it comes to emotional eating habits.

You have to find an alternative way to manage your emotions.

It comes down to fulfillment in your life. It comes down to taking back control and reclaiming your life again. You can do it. It is possible. The first step is believing you can and not backing down.

Address your emotions face-first. Are you anxious or depressed? Talk to someone! Book that therapy appointment. Find other ways to deal with these emotions.

Are you stressed out or overwhelmed? Participate in relaxation techniques. Take a warm bath, meditate, or sit for 5-10 minutes and simply breathe.

If you’re bored, find hobbies that fulfill you! Join that painting class. Find a good book to read. Get outside. There are so many options. I guarantee you

that you’ll eventually find something you truly enjoy.

Another thing here - start practicing mindful eating. Gone are the days where you sit on the couch in front of your TV, mindlessly placing chip after chip in your mouth. Eat with zero distractions. Chew your food. Become aware of whether you’re full or not. Don’t jump up right after your down for another slice of the pie or cake. Wait a bit. See if you actually need it or not.

Accept the Negative Feelings When They Come

Negative feelings - like sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and boredom - are part of life. Yes, they may feel uncomfortable. But these feelings are temporary. They will pass. And dealing with them face on is way better than covering them up with food.

When you stare your emotions in the face, you learn better resilience and better ways to get through those tough times. Acknowledge them. But don’t let them allow you to get out of control. Remember, you’re in control. You are steering your life toward where you want to be. Confronting your emotional eating is part of that.

Take better care of yourself. Put your health first by tackling the reasons why you’re overeating in the first place. It may take some time, but that’s okay. Slowly and gradually replace your emotional eating habits with healthy ones. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when you know you need it. We all need a helping hand once in a while.

Related Article: 5 Best Superfood to Promote Peaceful Inner Energy

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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