Emotional eating is a widely misconstrued behaviour.
Because of this, emotional eating goes unrecognised in the consumption patterns of a staggering amount of individuals.
See below the traits and triggers of emotional eating, and the disciplined behaviours you can utilise to correct your negative habit.
What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional Eating is the act of using food to fulfil your emotional needs instead of genuine physical hunger.
Despite the comforting aspect of indulging in food, emotional eating does not make you feel better or adequately rewarded – in fact, your emotional state is worsened by feelings of guilt.
Physical Hunger vs Emotional Eating
It is important to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger; understanding the difference and recognising your triggers is the first step towards conquering your habit. Emotional hunger can come on quickly and be very powerful, making it easy to mistake for physical hunger in a moment of emotional weakness.
When in an emotionally hungry state, you will crave specific ‘junk’ foods that will provide you with an instant rush. This often leads to mindless eating of foods lacking in nutrition and, later, feelings of shame and regret. If you were in a genuine state of physical hunger, just about anything would sound appetising! Your feelings of hunger would subside when full, and you wouldn’t feel bad in yourself for simply fueling your body.
The Source of Your Emotional Eating
Identifying what triggers you to indulge impulsively is the first step towards curing yourself of your emotional eating habits. The following culprits have widely recognised sources of emotional eating:
When enduring high levels of stress, our bodies produce considerable amounts of Cortisol, a hormone that triggers cravings for pleasure-filled foods that are sweet, salty or fried.
- Childhood Habits
As a child, you are frequently treated to desirable foods as a consequence of good behaviour – later in life, this translates to rewarding yourself with the food you crave and feeding into comforting feelings of nostalgia.
Food is often used as the solution to boredom. Eating fills individuals with momentary distraction from the fact they have little else to do.
- Emotional Stuffing
Similar to eating out of boredom, emotional stuffing uses food to temporarily distract individuals from their underlying and uncomfortable feelings.
Practices to Prevent Emotional Eating
✔️ Eat Consciously
When eating, make sure you are not otherwise occupied by the television, driving, etc. When dividing your attention whilst you eat, you will miss bodily queues informing you that you’re full. This will result in overeating, weight gain and feelings of dissatisfaction.
✔️ Savour Your Food
Instead of eating high volumes of food, take more time to savour the flavour of each bite; this will prevent overindulgence and encourage greater satisfaction.
✔️ Improve Your Emotional State
Actively working to improve your mental state (through regular exercise, stress relief and socialising) will deter you from turning to food for emotional fulfilment.
✔️ Delay Your Impulsive Indulgence
When feeling an overwhelming urge for a particular food, waiting just 5 minutes to fulfil your craving can make all the difference. In this time, assess your emotions and what has triggered the desire. If you are bored, find something to do. If you are anxious, channel your emotion into exercise. If feeling alone, call someone you find comfort in and have a good chat!
✔️ Keep a Food Diary
A food diary holds emotional eaters accountable when reaching for food that wasn’t necessary or is of no nutritional benefit. Mindful eating can help break the cycle of emotional eating, encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
✔️ Prepare Daily Meals In Under 30 Minutes
A reduction in fatigue and stress can significantly reduce erratic emotional eating outbursts, ultimately making you more in control of your urge to eat comforting foods. Fatigue and stress can be reduced by preparing quick and easy healthy meals and snacks as a daily habit during a specific time of the day that suits your program. This is a clever way to avoid eating fatty and nutrient empty foods when you are hungry and help yourself stick to a varied and balanced diet.