What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is the behavior of using food to fill a need in your life. It’ when someone eats to fill their emotional needs, instead of eating to satisfy their appetite or fulfill nutritional requirements. The causes of emotional eating can be varied; if you’ve used ice cream to cope over an ex or made extra room for dessert, you’ve likely experienced emotional eating in the past.
Eating emotionally in small amounts—using a cupcake to celebrate a birthday, pizza as a celebration for a ball game isn’t necessarily a problem. However, when it becomes a primary emotional coping mechanism, it can negatively affect emotional health. Being stuck in a cycle of emotional health can be difficult to overcome. Let’s examine the causes of emotional eating, how the habit begins, and how to manage it.
Lack of Awareness
One cause of emotional eating is when people are not conscious of what or why they’re eating. Mental health professions call this “unconscious eating.” This phenomenon is when someone continues picking at their meal after they’ve finished eating, even if they’ve intended to leave the rest behind. It can be eating peanuts, crackers, or popcorn—any food that’s in front of you, just because it’s there.
The way to fix the lack of awareness is mindfulness—be aware of your eating. Focus when eating, eat slowly, and don’t judge yourself while eating.
Disliking or even hating your body is one of the biggest emotional eating causes. While negative body image and shame and hatred about your body’s look don’t often inspire long-term shame—they can cause emotional eating. Many people will say they’ll stop hating their bodies after they reach their goal weight. Instead, you must flip the logic and stop hating your body to end the emotional eating cycle of abuse.
There’s no easy solution to emotional eating from body dysmorphia—therapy, community support, and a multi-pronged approach are necessary to overcome challenges in this area.
Feelings You Can’t Handle
In the United States, we are taught to avoid bad feelings and anything that makes us feel bad. We sometimes use food to handle these negative feelings and experiences in our lives—to mask them. We attempt to hide the bad in our lives by eating through it.
This habit can be solved by handling and experiencing your emotions—either by yourself or with a friend or therapist. While some negative feelings may seem ugly, like anger or jealousy, dealing with them in a healthy way is better than emotional eating.
Your Body’s Physiology
If you let yourself get too hungry or tired, it’s easy to let emotional eating sneak up on you. Your brain sends strong messages to your brain to eat when you’re hungry, and you’re also not emotionally equipped to deal with cravings or urges.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep and eat consistently throughout the day, either several meals or by eating small healthy snacks between meals. Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do to stop emotional eating.
Emotional eating has many different causes, but knowing where it comes from and how to handle it are the first steps to removing it from your live. Remember to trust your loved ones, get help from therapists, and utilize the experts at Diet Doc to put a stop to your emotional eating.