Emotional eating is one of the wrong ways, but comfortable and relaxing, to respond to stressful moments, negative emotions, and difficult situations by consuming certain foods. Emotional hunger or compulsive eating is an acute need for foods low in nutrition, but high in calories, usually, high in carbohydrates, salty, or sweet.
This type of food is called comfort food. Ice cream, chocolate, chips, French fries, pasta, pizza, cakes, candy, but not only, are part of this category.
Here are the causes, manifestations, and implications of emotional eating and how you can overcome them.
Causes of emotional eating
Some people in this category have cravings especially when they are sad or confused. For others, eating can be a way to avoid thinking about the problems they have or to avoid acting as such to solve them.
Not only do these people eat even though they are not hungry, but they give directly to fats and high-calorie foods. Because they like it and make them feel better. The fatter, sweeter, or saltier they feel, the better they feel.
Manifestations of emotional eating
Here’s how to tell if your urge to eat is triggered by nervousness in certain situations!
• You eat without realizing you are doing it
• You often feel guilty or ashamed after eating
• You often eat alone or in strange locations such as in the car parked near the building where you live
• After an unpleasant experience, you happen to eat even if you are not hungry
• You feel the need to eat certain foods when you are upset, such as chocolate
• You feel the need to eat in response to external stimuli, for example when you watch certain commercials on TV
• You eat because sometimes you feel like you have nothing else to do
• Eating makes you feel better when you are less focused on the problems you have or when you are worried
How can you differentiate emotional eating from feeling hungry?
The urge to eat on an emotional background can be extremely strong, thus being easily confused with the real feeling of hunger. Here are some tips that can help you differentiate between the two states:
• Emotional hunger is a sensation that starts suddenly – it occurs when you feel sad, depressed, or hopeless.
• When you feel the need to eat in an emotional background, you feel the need for certain types of food or sweets. Instead, when you eat because you are hungry, your body needs a supply of nutrients, you would eat anything, including the healthiest vegetables, to get rid of hunger.
• When you eat in an emotional background, you don’t stop when you feel that you have reached satiety. Instead, when you eat because you are hungry, you stop easily when the body has received the necessary intake of food.
• Emotional eating causes feelings of guilt or shame. When you have remorse, after giving in to this impulse, you know that you have not eaten to cover certain nutritional needs.
What are the implications of eating in an emotional background?
Eating on an emotional background is a big and unhappy vicious circle – on the spot, it produces a feeling of well-being, but over time, it will create an even greater imbalance. Excessive eating compensates for the loss for a short time, offers relief, but in the long run degenerates into even more stress and upset, because you did not remove the causes, everything had only a momentary effect.
You didn’t get rid of the initial upset either, but, on the contrary, you added another reason to it: that of gaining weight, meant to bring you even less self-respect, and less appreciation from others. Also, overeating initially applied as a temporary solution, is in great danger of becoming a habit. You have replaced a temporary evil with one that threatens to become permanent.
The 7 steps to stop eating emotionally
Although it seems almost impossible to get rid of impulsive eating and there are always situations where you feel the need to eat something fast, you can manage to get rid of this problem. Here’s what you need to do for.
1) Awareness of the problem
Awareness that you are facing this problem is 50% of the solution. Also, you should know that certain foods such as carbohydrates increase dopamine production.
This substance is responsible for balancing your level of good mood and energy, which is why when you experience negative emotions, you feel the need to consume these foods.
2) Analysis of situations in which you feel the need to eat on an emotional background
To better understand why you feel the need to eat emotionally, it is important to consciously analyze the situations in which this impulse occurs. Write down how you feel when this need arises and what triggered the situation.
3) Replacing emotional eating with other relaxing actibities
Emotional hunger is a warning we receive from the brain, which tells us that we need to change our mood to eliminate stress and negative emotions. To solve this problem, you can replace food with other relaxing activities that help you relax your body, release endorphins, and relax your mind.
You can go shopping or go out with friends, you can opt for an outdoor walk or you can watch a good movie. These activities will give you a chance to escape from the negative state you are in.
4) Initiating a food diary
A food diary is useful, being one of the best solutions through which we can have immediate control over what and when we eat.
5) The importance of the 3 daily meals
Don’t skip meals. This always leads to poor nutrition. More about the importance of the 3 main meals can be found HERE.
6) Healthy snacks for the moments when you can’t refrain from eating
It is recommended to always have at hand (at home, at the office, in the car) healthy snacks (fruits, vegetables, almonds, nuts, dehydrated fruits, whole grains) for the moments when you cannot refrain from food.
Healthy carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruits are anti-stress foods that can improve your mood in those moments.
7) Physical exercises
It is advisable to start a body transformation program, which includes both nutritional changes and physical training, which will help you adopt a healthier lifestyle. When you combine sport with healthy eating and you manage to have the right mindset, there is no problem you can’t solve. You can find HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE home workouts (no equipment needed) that can help you transform your body.
To summit up:
Now that you have discovered what emotional eating is, how it manifests, and what are the solutions to this problem, you can start a new lifestyle, healthier, and more balanced.
Go to the gym to keep fit (or you can train just as well at home), eat healthily when you are really hungry, and find time for relaxing activities that will gradually eliminate the feeling of emotional hunger.
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