A simple definition of emotional eating would be eating for reasons other than hunger, eating in response to emotions. Those emotions do not necessarily have to be negative emotions, although usually food can bring the illusion of comfort when having to deal with depression, anxiety or frustration. Trying to heal your problems with food can be very harmful, not only because it may cause weight gain, but also because it may keep you from finding real solutions to the problems you are facing.
How do I know if I’m an emotional eater?
When you’re craving a specific food (let’s say chocolate, or ice-cream) it’s usually because you associate that particular food with comfort, with feeling good and you’ll not settle for anything else. When you’re simply hungry, you tend to be less picky and open to different options. Also, this urge to eat a specific food is usually sudden, whereas when you’re hungry the sensation gradually settles in. Eating because you’re hungry also means that once you’re full, you’ll stop eating, but eating in response to emotional factors cares not about what your body needs, you simply want to “fill in an emotional void”.
Saying goodbye to emotional eating
It may be difficult to break the association your mind creates between feeling good and a certain food. The first step towards breaking the habit is recognizing it and learning what type of feelings are triggering the urge to eat. Dealing with those feelings and solving your problems also means there will be no more emotional eating. Keeping your mind focused on other things can also help; try cleaning the house for instance, it gives you that sensation of “clearing your mind”, plus you’re doing something really useful. Also, remember that comfort food can be healthy food as well. You could replace chocolate chip cookies with healthier alternatives: fruit salad or cereal bars. Emotional eating often occurs when we’re bored, so make sure you’re eating because you’re hungry, not because there’s nothing else to do.
Learning how to manage our emotional problems is an important aspect of our adult lives. It may be easier to eat something really delicious and feel better, but in the end, it only means avoiding the responsibility to find a real solution.