Emotional Eating-Causes and How to Overcome

Weight gain is one of the biggest problems these days. There are many reasons that are responsible for a person’s weight gain. Unhealthy life style with improper eating habits is the prime reason for obesity epidemic.

Sometimes it is emotional eating that is the culprit for weight gain. As the name suggests it is a relationship between emotions and eating but what actually emotional eating is really important to understand.

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What is Emotional eating?

We cannot deny that emotions and feelings have a major impact on a person’s life. Emotions are connected with a person’s eating habits. In emotional eating a person eats food to deal with his emotions and feelings and not to satisfy his hunger. He will eat to deal a certain kind of feeling even when he is not having physical hunger.

A person can go for emotional eating either when he is feeling emotionally happy or when sad. Emotional feelings can be derived from feelings that are positive or negative.

Emotional eating is very dangerous because a person usually eats large portions of food that is usually unhealthy junk food and leads to weight gain and obesity. It also mostly results in overeating. According to experts 75 percent of overeating is caused by emotions.

Emotional eating usually makes a person to eat food which is very high in calories like desserts, high calorie carbohydrates, junk food, chocolates and sweetened beverages.

A person deals with his emotions of stress, anxiety or depression or feelings of joy or pleasure by eating large quantities of such unhealthy food stuff that definitely takes a toll on his physical and mental health. It is actually a mindless eating.

Before we look for reasons of emotional eating we need to understand the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

Physical hunger

Hunger is human nature and central to our survival because it is a way of our body telling us to eat food which it will use as energy. 

Physical hunger builds gradually over a few hours. You are well aware of what you are up to when you are eating in response to physical hunger. Another clear sign of physical hunger is that when you have eaten in response to it, you will not feel guilty or ashamed afterwards because you ate in response to physical needs of the body. 

Emotional hunger

Emotional hunger can suddenly come and be very powerful. You feel like you need to satisfy this emotional hunger right at that instant. 

It is different from physical hunger because it can not wait. You crave for comfort foods when emotional hunger strikes. Another indication of emotional hunger is that you will not feel full even after a full stomach. And a trademark sign is that it will leave with feelings of powerlessness, guilt and shame. 

Emotional eating is major cause of weight gain, but we must know why a person goes toward emotional eating? Why his emotions trigger him to eat without thinking in large quantities? What are actual reasons behind emotional eating? Let’s have a look:

Causes of emotional eating

There are so many emotions a person deals with in his life. We have heard so many times that man is an emotional fool, I think that’s true. Emotional eating proves this. A person eats like a fool to deal with his emotions without realizing its side effects. Negative feelings and positive feelings both can trigger emotional eating.

Negative feelings

Negative feelings like stress, anxiety and depression are major causes of emotional eating. When people get stressed or feel sad, broken, depressed they go with eating large portions of cakes, ice creams, and junk food to avoid thinking about problem they are facing or distract themselves from what they are feeling.

Some people in depression start eating massive amount of food without feeling hungry because they feel food can take away their feeling of depression for some time. They actually find it a way to escape.

During stress adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol that increases motivation to eat. Under stress and depression people eat food which is very high in sugars and fats like cakes, chocolates, pizza, ice creams etc.

You will never see a person eating salads or fruits to deal with his emotions of anxiety or stress because they crave for food which will provide comfort to them and it is obviously unhealthy junk food. So comfort food is a major factor that provokes emotional eating.

 Comfort foods

Why we want to have a party after a hectic exams schedule or want to have a cheat day while following a particular diet? Reason is obvious we need to comfort ourselves to deal with the stress we had during this time of exams and dieting.

This is a clear expression of stress eating which simply means eating in response to stress. And what is more interesting is that after a session of stress eating you might be feeling even hungrier. 

Comfort food is high caloric food that provides satisfaction and a state of pleasure to a depressed person to deal with his emotions of anxiety and stress. Comfort foods are comforting because they provide psychological comfort.

Comfort foods affect mood so different people have different choices of comfort food. Some people comfort themselves by having desserts, brownies and foods with very high sugar content and some go with junk foods like pizza, burger or fries.

Positive feelings

People do not go for emotional eating when they are emotionally stressed but also when they are emotionally happy. People enjoy their happiness by eating their favorite foods and again favorite foods are of course unhealthy.

People use food as a reward. For example if a student has achieved excellent grades they will cherish their success with having cake, pastry or dessert that will make them feel happier.

Failure of a particular Diet

Dieting itself is a torture but its failure takes a toll on the psychological health of dieter. When a dieter follows a crash diet by starving himself he becomes emotionally disturbed and stressed and when dieting fails it is disastrous towards his emotional health.

This becomes even worse when he deals with his emotional break down with eating massive amount of unhealthy food to just get away with the continuous feeling of stress and anxiety. Failure of a diet is major cause of emotional eating.

Emotional eating is very dangerous because it is major cause of weight gain. When a person will eat high caloric food without having portion control even without feeling hungry it definitely will make him obese, so it is really important to control and stop emotional eating but is it possible? Yes of course it is:

How to overcome emotional eating?

There is a lot of emotional pressures these days. Almost everyone is emotionally disturbed because of financial pressures, health issues or fear of losing loved ones. Every one also finds a way to deal with these emotions and emotional eating is one of these but it is very unhealthy and dangerous. We cannot stop it suddenly, but we can try to overcome it and gradually stop it forever.

Change your lifestyle

Unhealthy life style is major reason of emotional instability. You have to change your mind set then habits and then your lifestyle. You will be the game changer. You have to be mentally relaxed so your senses will also work properly and will help you to avoid eating without thinking to deal with your emotions.

Exercise is really very important. Especially yoga is really very good to feel the connection between your mind and body to relieve stress in your life. When there will be no stress in your life automatically there will be no depression, no emotional disturbance and of course no emotional eating.

Do not follow stupid crash diets, skipping your meals and starvation. Adopt healthy life style with eating healthy, drinking enough water and exercising regularly. Dieting is deprivation that leads toward stress and finally eating emotionally to deal with stress.

Distract yourself from food

Do not run for food to deal with your feelings or emotions. Why eating food is your choice to relieve your stress and depression or to enjoy your success? Why you need a pizza to get away from your boredom? Why you need colas or soft drinks to deal with your nervousness? You have to find alternatives and substitutes other than food to deal with your emotions.

You can call one of your closer friends when you are stressed or depressed. You can enjoy your happiness by visiting one of your favorite places. You can get away from your boredom by watching your favorite movie and can deal with your nervousness by listening to good music. You have to make right choice for your emotions instead of food. Other than that follow below tips to overcome emotional eating:

·      Find a balance in your life

·      Have a network of support around you

·      Stop unusual eating patterns

·      Follow right eating schedule

·      Accept your emotions bravely

You must have knowledge about emotional eating to deal with it sensibly. There are a number of books on emotional eating. Their reading can help you understand it in a better way.

Books on emotional eating

When you will read certain books on emotional eating it will help you to deal with this kind of eating and how to deal with your emotions without eating vigorously. Some of the recommened books on emotional eating are:

Self Therapy by Jay Earley

The main topic of this book is Internal Family System Therapy (IFS). This book helps you to understand your psyche in a comprehensive way.  By reading this book you will be able to understand your inner world and to deal your deeply rooted emotions.

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole

This book will be a healer for people who had done terrible dieting and then had emotional eating because it failed. This book actually focuses on natural ways to lose weight instead of starvation and dieting.

The Power Of Now by Eckhert Tolle

There is a concept mentioned in this book which is really very important to understand for everyone. We should live not in our minds wishing where we could be but in our NOW where are bodies actually are.

Fit From Within

It is a simple book with 101 simple secrets to change your body and life . it’s a good recommendation for having inspiration when you feel very low in your life.

Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth

This book help you stop emotional eating giving tips like

·      Do not eat without feeling hungry

·      You should know when to stop

·      Eat without distraction

·      Withstand emotional pressures

Some other recommendations are

·      Any book by Geneen Roth

·      The Gifts Of Imperfection by Brene Brown

·      Eat What You Love Love What You Eat by Michelle May

·      Emotional Eating Rescue Plan

You can see that emotional eating can ruin your weight loss plans and make your life miserable. But it is possible to control this habit. All you have to do is to understand that you have this problem and then take measures towards a balanced lifestyle to control emotional eating.

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Qurat ul Ain

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