Updated: 2019, Aug 26

Emotional Eating: Why It Happens & How To End It In 7 Steps

Here are the 7 ways to put a brake on feeding your feelings.
Emotional Eating: Why It Happens & How To End It In 7 Steps
People who emotionally eat reach for food several times a week or more. Shutterstock Images

As human beings, we’re constantly looking for our wellbeing. If we feel sick, we take some pills to relieve the pain. If we hurt ourselves, we put some ice on it. If there’s something wrong with our sight, we get ourselves some glasses.

This constant seeking of wellbeing is just a natural response to our bodies; nevertheless, there are some coping mechanisms that aren’t always nice and safe.

When it comes to dealing with emotions, we tend to have the need to find a quick cure to our sorrows.

You can easily picture this with yourself.

When you’re in a lot of emotional pain, you just want it to be over, don’t you?

Of course, we’re not all the same and we all react in a different way to our feelings, but one of the most common coping mechanisms is emotional eating.

What Is Emotional Eating Exactly?

Emotional eating is the mechanism when we are eating in response to emotions rather than hunger.

There can be a craving of comfort food and these are typically high calorie, sweet, salty, fatty, etc. This can lead to guilt, overeating, and weight gain.

Have you seen yourself in that situation?

You may have noticed, the more overwhelmed you are, the more cravings you get, leading to a vicious cycle of overeating, full of shame and guilt. It can affect your life, your business, and your health.

You may be exposed to stress and overwhelm that often result in cravings and emotional stress-eating.

This can lead to overweight, anxiety, fatigue, lost productivity and many chronic health issues.

I know this, not only because I’m an Emotional Eating Expert, but because I’ve been there myself like so many others!

Long story short, emotional eating is eating with your feelings instead of your real hunger.

Food seems like a quick cure to our sorrows or tiredness.

Nothing that a jar of cookies or chocolate ice cream can’t fix, right?

Well, food could be an awesome pain reliever at first, but consequences are far from pleasant.

Sarah Allen, a psychologist who specializes in eating disorders, stated: “As soon as you start looking for food, stop. Think, ‘Am I hungry? Do I need food in my stomach, or is one of my triggers going off? What do I need right now?’”

Try to ask yourself these questions every time you feel food cravings. Just take a moment to think, do you need to eat that?

Is it necessary?

If you’re honest to yourself and realize that you’re not hungry, then stop.

I know it’s easier to say it than do it, but overcoming emotional eating is actually possible!

Keep reading to find out how.

How Can You Identify Emotional Eating?

Some might say that it’d be easy to identify. You just feel an unexplained desire to eat the whole cookie jar after having a bad day at work or if your lover turned you down, isn’t that right?

Well, that may be true, however, most people aren’t able to identify those symptoms like emotional eating.

You see, when it comes to emotional hunger, secrecy, shame, and denial are commonly seen. These feelings usually block our thoughts and don’t allow us to accept our reality.

That’s actually why so many people struggle with accepting that they’re emotional eaters.

All right but, who is most likely to become an emotional eater?

Those who have been through trauma, are undergoing extreme stress or fatigue and don’t know how to handle it in a healthy way are most susceptible to emotional eating, also, those people who consume food to self-medicate and self-regulate mood are also at risk.

Knowing the symptoms might help you identify whether you’re an emotional eater or not.

Some of the most common ones include:

  • Urgent hunger
  • Paired with an upsetting emotion
  • Involves automatic or absent-minded eating
  • Does not notice, or stop eating, in response to fullness
  • Feelings of guilt about eating
  • Hunger for a specific food

RELATEDWhy Your Diet Isn’t Working? Emotional Or Binge Eating May Be The Reason

How Do I Stop Emotional Eating? – Try These Tips & End Emotional Eating Once and for All

While this journey might seem more like a battle, there are ways to overcome emotional eating in a safe and effective way.

You see, emotional eating shows itself in several layers. Not all the root causes are the same nor all the emotional eaters crave food in the same way, that’ why it’s important to reach out for professional advice from a doctor or nutrition coach.

Conventional medicinal professionals often prescribe two common antidepressants, Luvox and Zoloft, to help manage emotional eating. Both drugs are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which according to Mayo Clinic, “they block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin (one of the chemical messengers that carry signals between brain cells) available.”

The thing is that there are many other factors that play a role in emotional eating, and a pill is simply not enough to overhaul this unhealthy coping mechanism.

Lots of health and nutrition experts have focused their attention on finding ways to end emotional eating.

After years of trials and research, these experts have found that science isn’t the only way to fight it, in fact, mental health professionals have tried over the years different approaches such as behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavioral therapy, acceptance/ commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.[1]

Despite the approach, the essential goal is to find proper ways to replace food as a coping mechanism for healthier habits.

Overcome Emotional Eating

Take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track. Shutterstock Image

Here I’ll Show You 7 Effective Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating

Many of my clients who struggle with emotional eating have tried these tips and got excellent results.

These are completely safe and natural, so you don’t have to worry about side effects.

1. Focus and Acceptance

Focus and acceptance teach people that acceptance occurs when they stop resisting and find the lesson that life is presenting at the moment.

2. Get enough rest

Getting a good night of sleep is challenging for many people. Take advantage of the deep sleep period 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM and wake up refreshed and rested each morning. Make it a habit to get to bed at a regular time and ideally before 10:00 PM and wake up before 6:00 AM each morning.

3. Meditate on your cravings

When people meditate, they give their full attention to whatever is happening now or to a single point of reference.

4. Affirmations

Affirmations are sentences or phrases that affect the mind on a subconscious level. They can be negative (sometimes unconsciously) and create disharmony in our lives or positive and uplifting to inspire, energize and motivate. Chose positive affirmations to set yourself up for success.

5. Get Moving

Begin small with exercise. A good starting point is to briskly walk 2 times a week for 20 minutes. After that, move up to 3 times a week for 30 minutes.

6. Your attitude means everything

Hopkins Medicine studies show that a positive attitude positively affects health and well-being. This optimism is a key part of successful stress management, which is further associated with effective healing.

7. Self-Monitoring

Self-monitoring is the ability to conduct oneself according to the tone of social situations in order to ensure appropriate behavior.

RELATEDEmotional or Binge Eating May Be the Root Cause for Your Failing Diet

Now that you have the theory, let’s jump into action!

I know it’s hard to try all these tips at once.

What I recommend is to introduce one new habit in your daily routine until you feel comfortable, then move on to the next tip and so on.

The idea here is to make small changes each day. Perhaps this isn’t the magic pill you desire, but I assure you this is a safe and effective way towards a cravings-free lifestyle!

Author

Andrea Caprio, CTNC, CCWC

Andrea is a Certified Transformational Nutrition coach (CTNC) and Corporate Wellness Coach (CCWC), Digestive Health and Autoimmune Spec

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