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What is emotional eating? How can you stop it?
Changing eating habits and trying to follow a weight loss diet can be hard on its’ own for everyone.
It is a huge change from what we are used to. It is often an enormous change of one’s lifestyle, which can take a lot of willpower, strength and patience.
Now, what happens when emotional eating comes into equation?
I bet every single one of us turned into emotional eating at some point.
Think about it!
A difficult, nasty breakup can turn into a night on the couch with a bucket of ice cream and chocolate – something we not only see in romantic comedies, but also real life.
Sometimes when are sad, we tend to cheer ourselves up with some candies, a sugar-loaded snack or a favorite meal.
And it is perfectly fine – life is NOT all about restrictions, after all!
I am a firm believer of the fact that it’s not always about what we choose to eat every time, but also when and how much.
It is all about having control and finding balance!
Are you an emotional eater?
Answer YES or NO to following statements. Try to be as honest with yourself as possible!
- Do you eat to make yourself feel better when you’re scared, anxious, stressed out or bored?
- Is food your comfort – does it make you feel safe?
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
- Do you tend to eat more when big changes happen in your life?
- Do you tend to eat more when you’re stressed out?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you eat purely because you’re bored?
If your answer was YES to majority of those questions, there is a huge chance you are an emotional eater, stuck in the emotional eating cycle.
What is the emotional eating cycle?
To explain that in the simplest way possible, the cycle can be described in four simple steps.
- You feel stressed.
- You need comfort.
- You turn to food and overeat.
- You feel guilty.
Why is emotional eating dangerous?
Just think about it – as humans, we go through a lot of emotions every single day.
We go through stress at work, we worry about children, loved ones, money and relationships.
Now, imagine being an emotional eater – every strong emotion equals a large, unhealthy meal.
Sounds like not the best idea when it comes to weight loss diet, nor does it sound like healthy lifestyle.
Overeating, which is one of the main results of operating, can not only lead to weight gain and obesity, but also a list of dangerous diseases.
Emotional eaters don’t usually turn to healthy food – it is all about comfort food, such as high-carb, high-fat snacks and dishes, such as pastas, pizza, hamburgers, fast food, which in long term can lead to heartburn, heart diseases, problems with high cholesterol and blood pressure.
The difference between emotional and physical hunger.
To put it in the simplest way, emotional hunger is everything that physical hunger isn’t.
- Physical hunger comes on gradually, while our bodies digest food that we consumed earlier in the day – emotional hunger comes on suddenly, usually with a wave of emotions.
- Eating to satisfy your physical hunger should never make you feel ashamed or make you feel bad about yourself! Emotional hunger, on the other hand, often awakes feelings of shame and guilt.
- One of the biggest differences is, physical hunger stops when you’re full – once you satisfy your body’s needs, you’re done. Emotional hunger, on the other hand, isn’t satisfied even when your stomach is full.
How to stop emotional eating?
People who struggle with emotional eating, usually feel powerless – they feel like they cannot help themselves, their emotional cravings and problems, and feel like it is impossible to break the vicious cycle.
Sometimes, the smartest way to help a person who is an emotional eater and struggles with helping themselves, is therapy.
However, there are ways to help yourself get out of the emotional eating cycle and introduce healthy habits.
Recognise your problem.
Sometimes, for many people who struggle with emotional eating, it is very easy to say – Well, I have to eat something!
That is true!
However, it is extremely important to recognize when you’re actually physically hungry and your body is signalling that it’s running low on energy and when you turn to food simply tocomfort yourself.
Do you feel physically weak, tired, and your stomach is getting a little grumbly?
Or did your partner say something upsetting, or your boss was a bit mean just 10 minutes ago and you decided to calm yourself down with something?
Be honest with yourself and allow yourself to face and accept your weakness in the moment.
The moment you accept it and stop denying the problem to yourself, you’ll have the strength to fight it.
Understand your emotions.
First and the most important step is to recognize your emotions at the moment.
It matters incredibly because that will let you help to find a way to find solution for your emotional eating.
Studies show that:
If you’re anxious and you feel like overeating, you should use your nervous energy to do something physical instead.
The simplest way to do it is to have a little dance to your favorite song, squeeze a stress ball, take a quick walk alone or with your dog.
If you feel tired and exhausted, you should try to relax yourself – have a big cup of hot tea, take a bath or a long, warm shower, light your favorite candles.
If you can, make yourself comfortable and cozy.
If you’re simply bored, it is advised to turn your brain to engaging activities.
Try to read a good, interesting book or an article, play puzzle, engage into a family activity or a game, or focus on developing a new skill – search some DIY ideas, start scrapbooking or simply work out.
Introduce healthy habits.
Although it may sound cliche, keeping your lifestyle healthy can be very beneficial for your emotional health.
There are simple steps that you can take to ensure it is easier to manage your emotions and stress.
- Make sure you have eight hours of sleep every night.
Studies show that not enough sleep increases the chances of your body craving sugary foods that will give it fast energy boosts. Getting enough sleep ensures better appetite control.
- Drink, drink, drink!
Despite the common knowledge of the importance of drinking water, many people don’t realise wonders drinking it can do. Not drinking enough water can make you feel tired, therefore more easily annoyed, stressed and exhausted. Make sure to aim for 2l a day to give your body and brain what it needs to feel fresh.
- Make sure you connect with other people.
Sense of loneliness, especially in the age of social media, is a very common thing. Connect with people in your daily life and try to make time for those who make you feel good about yourself and positively affect your mood.
I hope this helps you understand what emotional eating is, if you are an emotional eater and teach you how you can avoid or stop this.
Eating too many processed foods teaches us extremely bad habits and we start to crave it more and more.
Following a healthy, well balanced diet like the 21-Day Weight Loss Plan & Wellness Guide will help you not only lose weight, but teach you how to lead a healthier lifestyle long term.
To find out more about the 21-Day Weight Loss Plan or get started you can check it out here.