Are you feeling stressed, depressed, and tired and experiencing appetite simultaneously? Do stressful events increase your appetite? Does a candy bar relieve your anxiety or stress? If you answered positively, you might be one of those emotional eaters. So, you might be wondering what emotional eating is and how you can curb it? As it is known to us, STRESSED is DESSERTS spelled backward. Most of us fall prey to eating sweets and salty food to cope up with stress. Fortunately, you can manage this emotional eating. Keep on reading further and find more details on emotional eating and ways to beat the same.
Eating in response to negative emotions and feelings other than hunger, even when you are not genuinely hungry, is called emotional hunger. Emotional eating may help you feel happy for time being but the same feelings of sadness and stress return along with a feeling of guilt and that’s out of control. Something happens that upsets you and you get stressed, after which you experience an overwhelming urge to eat, and you happen to eat more than you know you should. Later, after a gap, you happen to develop feelings of guilt, sadness, and no control over food intake and you again overeat. So, emotional eating becomes a vicious cycle that keeps on repeating.
Not all emotional eaters have an eating disorder, however, they eat out of boredom to feel better as eating favorite snacks releases serotonin and dopamine; eat out of habit, or eat to forget some bad experiences and to distract themselves.
Understand the Difference between Physical and Emotional Hunger:
|It is gradual develops over a time
||It is sudden and develops randomly
|Desire to eat different foods
||It’s usually for specific foods mostly salty and sugary foods
|It is based in the stomach
||It is based above the neck. Your mouth craves food.
|It is patient
||It is urgent
|It occurs out of physical need such as growling in the stomach, feeling emptiness in the stomach, feeling weak, or lack of energy
||It is paired with an upsetting emotion and doesn’t come with physical signs of hunger
|It involves deliberate choices and awareness of eating. Hunger stops after eating the required portion size
||It involves automatic or absent-minded eating. There is no filling sensation after eating. You don’t stop when full and ignore portion size
||Eat mindlessly with little attention to taste and texture
|Satisfied after eating
||Feels guilty, sad, and regrets after overeating
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Identifying Signs of Emotional Eating:
Here are some signs that indicate you have developed emotional eating.
- Overeating in stressful situations
- Eat-in response to emotions and not due to physical needs
- Seek comfort in food
- Difficulty to lose weight because of the eating habit
- Overeat and unable to stop oneself
- Eat to feel happy
- Eating when one feels happy
- Random food cravings in response to emotions, when one is emotionally dissatisfied. One is unable to control it.
- Eating without thinking
30 Helpful Tips to Beat Habit of Emotional Eating:
Here are some helpful tips that can help you beat the habit of emotional eating.
- Identify your triggers as this is the first step to stopping it
- Start a food diary: Pen down what you eat when you experience certain emotions. This will help you understand which emotions trigger the eating. Keeping a food diary can be extremely laborious, but, merely in a day or two, you will understand its benefits. Also, write all your frustrations, fears, and concerns.
- Delay: Delay the urge to eat for at least 20 minutes before you eat.
- Distract yourself, cultivate other interests: Distract yourself in different activities that need attention. Engage your brain in other activities. It can help avoid emotional eating.
- Distance: Don’t keep your food handy in any respect.
- Be determined, stay committed: Establish how necessary it’s for you to eat this food. Carry out the very test; Do I really need to eat this food? If your answer is affirmative then proceed. If your answer is negative, avoid eating it.
- Decide: Settle on acceptable portion size. Decide what precisely you’re craving: salty? Sweet? Sour? Hot? Cold? Creamy? Crunchy? Come up with a type of food. And, then focus to eat the same in a small portion.
- Relax: You matter so spare time for yourself. Do yoga and meditation. Practice positive talk like “I can do this” or “I won’t let this get me down”. Read a book for your personal growth. Listen to your favorite song.
- Exercise: Do 20 minutes of a relaxing activity that you enjoy the most. Exercise daily, whenever you have an urge to eat divert that energy into exercising.
- Eat at the table in the kitchen; avoid eating in bedrooms and hall
- State your intentions: Taking time to think about what you’re about to do can discourage you from doing it; talk it out; ask yourself if you are really hungry, or eating just because you’re stressed.
- Ensure you are really hungry before you eat: Before eating food without thinking, ask yourselves this simple question – Am I really hungry? This will help you recognize when you are really hungry, or if you are trying to fill an emotional urge.
- Learn to recognize hunger; listen to your body notice physical symptoms such as growling in the stomach. Does your stomach really feel empty? If you are not sure then drink a glass of water and wait; if you are still not feeling satisfied, it’s time to eat.
- Phone a friend, if you are feeling lonely. Eating in loneliness will only drive you further into isolation. Instead, call a friend or go to a social event.
- Develop new hobbies: Discovering and developing new hobbies can help you manage stress and hardships in other areas of life. It gives you more energy and a renewed sense of hope when it’s time to tackle those problems.
- Stay hydrated: Drink enough water. Many of us are not hydrated enough and think we are hungry when we need all is water to drink.
- Change your environment.
- Have a cup of black tea.
- Snack on something with shell-like pistachio.
- Keep mandarin oranges on hand. The aroma and peeling will help calm you down.
- Chew gum. This can help you regulate the urge of eating and keep your mouth busy. Just make sure it’s sugar-free.
- Overcome your boredom.
- Maintain a calorie log; have healthy snacks.
- Shop healthy snacks.
- Learn from previous setbacks.
- Take a stroll in an open space. If the urge to eat is uncontrollable; go for a short walk.
- Take a shower/bath.
- Devour a nutritious snack or meal. If you are hungry, find a nutritious meal or snack and sit down to eat without other distractions.
- Manage your anger: Instead of eating in anger, deal with it healthily and productively like going for a walk or on a run.
- Develop bedtime routine: If you are tired, your body is telling you that you need sleep, not food. Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it.
Emotional eating is a coping mechanism, but it is important to understand that it is not a healthy coping mechanism. Mindful eating is a bit difficult during stressful times as it seems just like another task, and if you are unable to control it on your own then seek professional help. Talk to your doctor to find out what options are available to help you to change your behavior.
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Author: Dr Mithila