Emotional eating refers to eating due to your emotions as opposed to eating because you’re actually hungry. You may reach for that tub of ice cream or comfort food when life gets tough. The taste of food suppresses the negative emotions and feels good.
But then, it can have some serious health side effects, such as weight gain and an emotional rollercoaster where shame and guilt set in after you’ve binged. So, why does this happen? And how can you stop? In this article, we’re going to dive into everything behind the scenes when it comes to emotional eating.
Why Does Emotional Eating Happen?
Life is full of stressors. From financial stress to relationship stress, it takes a toll. You might feel more negative or ‘empty.’ And you may strive to feel that void. This is often why many individuals turn to food. They attempt to fill that emptiness with temporary feelings of ‘fullness.’
However, it’s not the only reason why someone may turn to food to cope with their emotions. Other reasons may include:
- Not understanding the division between physical and emotional hunger
- Restriction and negative self-talk that eventually leads to binging
- Not performing activities that may help ease negative emotions
- Not turning to friends or family for support during emotional times
Emotional Eating vs Real Hunger
Real hunger versus eating because of you’re emotions can be hard to differentiate between. However, it’s not impossible.
Next time, you go to eat ask yourself: ‘On a scale from 1-10 (with 10 being starving), how hungry am I physically?’ If you answer 1-5, you may not actually need to eat quite yet. This all comes down to listening to your body and physical hunger cues more.
You can also assess what kind of foods you’re craving. If it’s junk food, try making a plate of healthy veggies or fruit and then determine if you still are as hungry as you think you are.
Tips to Stop Emotional Eating
So, how can you leave emotional eating in your past and develop a better relationship with food? We’ve got a few tips below!
Tip #1: Create Separation Between Emotional Hunger Cues and Real Hunger Cues
While we briefly went over this above, we’re really driving this home! It’s very important to separate your emotions from real hunger. Eating because you’re upset or bored isn’t a good reason. You should eat to nourish your body and give it what it needs to work at its peak capacity. This often doesn’t include binging on chips or tubs of ice cream. Instead (and if you must eat) treat yourself with a little bit of the food in a bowl and leave it at that.
Tip #2: Eat on a Schedule
Your body loves routine. In fact, many cycles within our body thrive when you do the same thing each day - including your digestive tract and metabolism. By eating your meals and snacks around the same time each day, you are already setting yourself up for success. Not only will this give your body the energy it needs to deal with stress, but you’ll also be less likely to eat outside of this schedule. Find an eating pattern that works for you. A common one is eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with two snacks a day.
Tip #3: Find Balance in Your Life
Stressed out? Anxious? Determine why you’re turning to food to cope with your emotions. Then, determine what you can do to change this. If it’s a stressful job, making a career change is maybe what you need. If it’s a relationship, maybe it’s time to cut people out (sometimes, you absolutely need to remove people from your life - especially if it’s a toxic situation). People go their separate ways all the time. Or perhaps you need to talk to a friend or your partner about something that’s been bothering you.
Whatever it is - find that balance in your life!
Tip #4: Turn to Other Healthy Ways to Cope With Stress
When stressed, have another go-to - something that doesn’t involve eating. Call a friend, write about it, move a little, or simply take some time for yourself. The goal is to find healthy ways to cope that won’t hinder your health, but rather, will help it!
Tip #5: Remove Temptation
The easiest way to avoid eating junk when you’re emotional is to not bring it into the house. Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with healthy options that are ready to go. That way, when you’re feeling you want food to fill the void, at least, it’ll be healthy - or maybe, without junk food available, you’ll realize you actually aren’t hungry at all. Removing temptation is one of the most simple things you can do!
Tip #6: But Don’t Restrict!
While it’s great to remove temptation, you also don’t want to restrict what you eat. By doing so, you could easily be fuelling this negative cycle. You might restrict your food all day but find yourself stressed out at the end of it. In turn, you grab the first food you can find to calm that stress.
If you eat regularly throughout your day, this wouldn’t be an issue and you might not be stressed in the first place. Interestingly, not eating leads to low blood sugar which actually increases the stress hormones. Thus, restricting never ends well. Simply, don’t do it! Look back at our second tip for ideas on how to build a regular eating schedule that supports healthy blood sugar levels.
You CAN Overcome Emotional Eating
It might take some work, but you can do this! If you really struggle, asking for help from a professional never hurts. In fact, it takes a ton of strength to reach out for support.
And if you’re wanting to reset your digestive system and get on a health kick where emotional eating isn’t your go-to, try one of Nosh Detox’s juice detoxes today!