Gone are the days that people would eat only to fill their stomachs. This is especially true nowadays when we have the kind of variety in culinary concoctions and junk food available to us in surplus. Today we have the luxury of storing a lot more food than what we would need for just a day or two, thanks to freezers and refrigerators and family size packs of just about everything. Eating is no longer just a response to hunger.
First off, let’s define emotional eating. Emotional eating is usually the consumption of a large quantity of food (usually junk food or “comfort” food) in response to feelings instead of hunger. Research suggests that almost 75% of overeating is due to emotional eating. Needless to say, this can be a real problem for those who are overweight or are trying to lose weight.
Often, we resort to food in response to emotional problems because we have learned that food and eating can be comforting, particularly in the moment. This can be habit forming and prevent us from learning to appropriately deal with our problems and resolve them effectively. People turn to food when experiencing so many different issues such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, frustration, interpersonal problems, even boredom. This can lead to undesired weight gain.
When we identify the triggers to our emotional eating, we can try to manage and resolve them in more appropriate ways rather than eating and gaining weight.
What Are Your Eating Triggers?
There are five main types of situations or emotions that cause us to eat:
- We eat as an emotional response to cope with negative feelings like depression or anxiety.
- We eat more in the company. Sometimes our friends, hosts, or relatives can urge us to eat more and enjoy the food. But often, we just lose track of how much we are eating because we are engaged with others or arguing.
- This is where we eat purely because an opportunity arises. For example, we pass by our favorite cafe or see an ad for a particular food that we enjoy so we feel like having it though we aren’t hungry. We also have certain associations in our mind that compel us to eat when there is no need to – like popcorn at the movies, or hot dogs and beer at the ball game.
- When we eat as a result of negative self-talk. We make excuses to eat based on things that we tell ourselves like we are unworthy of anything good or stupid, etc.
- Finally, we eat to resolve a physiological problem like curing a headache or compensate for excessive hunger from having skipped a meal.
The best way to identify what causes you to eat excessively is to keep a record of everything you eat on a daily basis along with the situation in which you eat – whether it is routine mealtime or certain thoughts, situations or emotions that led you to eat, particularly when it is junk food. You might soon notice a pattern to your excessive eating.
How To Stop Emotional Eating?
Once you recognize your pattern of emotional eating, you can start to undo it and develop alternate ways of dealing with those emotions or situations that urge you to eat unnecessarily and unhealthily and gain weight. Make a list of alternate activities that you can substitute for eating in response to any of your triggers.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Call a friend and chat for a while
- Do some deep breathing or meditation
- Read an engaging book
- Go out for a jog or brisk walk or workout
- Complete a few household chores like laundry or gardening
- Do some other fun and engaging activity until the compulsion to eat passes
Additional Tips For Emotional Eating
A distraction usually works to get away from unnecessary eating, but if there are deep-rooted issues that need to be addressed, distractions may not be enough.
Another way you can try to better cope with your emotional issues is weight loss supplements. They can speed up the process of losing weight by suppressing your appetite. But you need to be regular to make this all happen. You need to be dedicated and persistent when it comes to weight loss.
Once you start to learn alternative, healthy ways to cope with your problems rather than stuffing yourself, be sure to reward your efforts. This will further motivate you to stick to your weight loss goals and see results. It will also reinforce the progress you made and maintain your healthy habits.