Do you reach for food when you’re feeling emotional? Many of us reach for food when we want comfort, support, or even to reward ourselves. And when we seek out food for emotional reasons instead of physical hunger, we tend to grab unhealthy food.
Emotional eating is a form of eating where the goal is to fulfill an emotional need rather than satiate hunger. Often it doesn’t make us feel any better and instead inspires another negative emotion: guilt.
The roots of emotional eating are often complicated and comprise of many different factors, but the best thing you can do is recognize emotional eating for what it is.
How Do You Prevent Emotional Eating?
Experts agree that one of the best ways to stop emotional eating is to find alternative ways of coping with negative emotions.
If you’re noticing yourself feeling depressed, talk it out with a friend or family member rather than turning to food. If you’re tired, make yourself a cup of tea instead of a snack. Or, if you’re bored, go for a walk, read a book, or practice a hobby you enjoy doing.
We’re never going to avoid negative emotions, but recognizing them and learning to cope in more productive ways will be a healthier alternative.
Is Emotional Eating Considered an Eating Disorder?
We all turn to food sometimes to deal with emotions. We have the term “comfort foods” for a reason. This isn’t inherently bad if we only do it occasionally. If you go to your favorite restaurant to celebrate a job offer or pick up some ice cream on the way home if you’re having a bad day, it’s normal behavior.
The problem comes when it happens often enough that it becomes a chronic issue. While emotional eating itself is not an eating disorder, it can quickly become a binge eating disorder if left unaddressed.
Emotional eating is more of a symptom of an eating disorder rather than an eating disorder itself, but it should still be taken seriously and addressed head-on.
Can You Treat Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is treatable through many different methods. It’s not impossible to overcome emotional eating on your own. Still, if you need outside support, Overeaters Anonymous is an organization that offers a space to address emotional eating and eating disorders.
If you prefer virtual support or something more anonymous, there are online community forums such as Reddit or Facebook groups where people can support each other informally.
Seeking out a doctor’s help and advice may be the right course of action if you’re feeling out of control in your emotional eating. Doctors have the resources and knowledge to help you through the process and can refer you to counselors and dieticians.
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Can Exercise Help Minimizes Emotional Eating?
Recent scientific research suggests “that exercise actually makes people feel less hungry, possibly due to better regulation of the hormones associated with hunger.” Simply exercising for 30 to 60 minutes a day can help balance out your hormones which may help curb some emotional eating. This exercise doesn’t have to be at a high-intensity level and could include biking, walking, running, and many other cardiovascular exercises.
What Are the Underlying Reasons Why People Emotionally Eat?
Causes of emotional eating can vary from person to person. However, some common themes can contribute. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/emotional-eating.htmA common reason that people turn to food for comfort is stress. Chronic stress can produce high cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which can incite cravings for sweet, fried, and salty foods.
Boredom is another cause of emotional eating. When boredom strikes, food is a way to keep occupied. It gives you something to do and acts as a distraction from boredom.
Having an influx of negative emotions all at once, like anxiety, sadness, loneliness, or fear, can make us turn to food to silence these emotions temporarily. Eating is an attempt to numb the feelings so that they don’t overtake you.
Because these causes have nothing to do with physical hunger, it’s essential to understand the underlying reasons for emotional eating before you can stop it healthily.
What Does Emotional Eating Cause the Body to Do?
Emotional eating can make it difficult to control your weight. When you’re indulging too much in sweet, fried, and fatty foods, weight gain is a possibility. Not only can emotional eating affect the way you look, but if you lack nutrition, it can affect the parts of your body you can’t see.
Is Emotional Eating a Common Reason Why People Gain Weight?
An unbalanced diet of emotional eating can be a contributing factor in weight gain. It can sabotage any weight-loss efforts with excessive and prolonged emotional eating.
If your weight is bothering you, it can reinforce the emotional eating cycle. You feel bad about your weight, so you eat to deal with the negative emotion, leading to more weight gain. It’s only by addressing the underlying causes of emotional eating that you can stop any related weight gain.
Can Regular Exercise Help Stem Emotional Eating?
Studies have looked at how exercise can curb emotional eating that has shown that exercise can be an effective coping mechanism for negative emotions. By having a consistent yoga and meditation practice, studies have found that it can act as a preventative measure and reduce anxiety and depression.
Running, walking, and other aerobic exercises can help combat negative emotions. It releases chemicals and endorphins that reduce stress and boost mood, so it might be beneficial to retrain yourself to stop reaching for the pantry and instead put on some running shoes.
Emotional eating is a complex problem that is more common than people might think. We all deal with negative emotions, but the key to combating emotional eating is discovering the underlying issues and addressing them in a healthy, productive way.
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