What is Emotional Eating and How You Can Overcome it?

By Sarah Williams

Posted 5 months agoHEALTH

How do you cope with stressful or emotional situations? Do you rush to your fridge, take your Mars bar and swallow it down or call for pizza delivery? If the answer is yes, then my dear friend, you’re an emotional eater.
What is Emotional Eating and How You Can Overcome it?

What is emotional eating you may ask? It’s a situation where you’re using food to comfort yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hungry or not; you have to eat something to make yourself feel better. Does it work? The answer is usually not, but more about it later.

There are a few solutions to deal with this stress eating foe. One example would be planning your meals and making them healthier. You can do it alone or order somebody to do it for you. There are plenty of restaurants that offer special healthy meals plans. If you want to check it out and choose one for yourself, here’s a Meal Delivery Experts comparison.

Okay, enough of this introduction. Now it’s time to learn more about what is stress eating and how you can overcome it. Let’s answer a couple of questions first, shall we?

What is emotional eating?

The answer to that question is simple- it’s a defence mechanism. Stress eating is a way your organism copes with certain situations that can cause various emotions. It can be something stressful, sad or even joyful. It doesn’t matter. If your first response is opening your fridge, it can lead to the dangerous emotional eating cycle.

Why dangerous? Because let’s face the truth, we all have to cope with tons of different situations throughout the day. Now, if your defence mechanism is food, then you’ll be eating far more than you should before you realize that something is not right and you’ll find yourself overweight, thinking how to get a smaller waist and keep yourself healthy.

That may make you unhappy, and guess what will happen when you’re down. That’s right. You’ll eat more to comfort yourself. The worse you feel, the more you eat. And you know what the worst thing about it is? You won’t even feel better; on the contrary, you’ll feel guilty that you overeat. And when you feel that way what will happen? You’ll eat more. Can you see the pattern?

That’s why it’s essential to react as fast as you can. When you catch yourself at the beginning of this emotional eating cycle, you need to do everything you can to stop it before it becomes the habit. If you’re too late, you’ll trap yourself inside it, and it will be much harder to escape.

What can cause emotional eating?

As mentioned before, many situations may cause emotional eating. Sometimes they don’t even have to be negative. In many cases, when we achieve something, we want to reward ourselves with a great meal.

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, it’s the negative situations that cause emotional eating. The most usual triggers are stress, habits, boredom, and social influences. We discussed stressful situations before so let’s focus on the other three.

Firstly, habits. They can often date back to your childhood. Remember eating ice-cream after getting an A? Or the times when your parents gave you some sweets or made you your most favourite dinner when you were feeling sad?

These are just some examples of how childhood habits can interfere with your adult life. Sometimes you eat when feeling certain emotions because your parents taught you that this is the best way to deal with them.

The second thing mentioned is boredom. Sometimes you don’t have anything to do. Let’s say you’ve just finished your book or a game and don’t know what to do next. What do you do? You eat. 

Why do you do that? Because food is a great way to distract yourself. It’s a fast and easy way to make you feel that you’re doing something. All you have to do is open your mouth and put something in it (that’s what she said).

Now, let’s get to the third cause of emotional eating- social influences. It turns out that the famous “would you do something if your friend did it” your mom used to say is true.

It’s easy to overeat when you’re out with your friends. You see that they’re eating, you eat as well despite not even being hungry. That also implies to your grandma telling you to eat more because you’re such a big boy. You eat because you want to fit in, avoid disappointing somebody or impress your girl with your eating skills.

How to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger?

If you’re an emotional eater, it doesn’t mean you have to stop eating every time you feel something. Sometimes you may just be hungry. That’s why when you want to deal with your emotional eating problems, you shouldn’t quit eating.

You have to know how to distinguish your physical needs from emotional ones. If you learn the main differences, you’ll be able to quit habits that are wrong for you without harming yourself.

The first main difference is that emotional hunger comes on suddenly after something occurs. If your boss yells at you and you suddenly feel hungry, it’s emotional hunger. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes gradually.

You’re slowly getting that hungry feeling. It’s not sudden, and therefore you don’t have to satisfy it instantly.

The second difference between these two types of hunger is the type of food. When you’re physically hungry, it doesn’t matter what you eat; everything sounds okay. The emotional need is different. It demands specific types of comfort food like pizza or ice-cream.

The difference is also what you’re feeling after the meal. If you were physically hungry, you’d feel a sense of satisfaction and fullness when you finish eating. When it comes to emotional hunger, a full stomach won’t get you pleasure.

You eat more until your mind tells you to stop, and then you feel guilty from overeating. That doesn’t imply when it comes to satisfying your physical hunger.

How to overcome emotional eating?

Now when you know what emotional eating is and what causes it, we can proceed to the second part of the article. How can you overcome emotional eating? It’s essential to know how you can fight back or prevent yourself from comforting yourself with food.

According to specialists at Mayo Clinic there are a few ways to overcome emotional eating.

First of all, find an activity or a hobby that will keep you motivated and occupied. One of the leading causes of emotional eating is boredom and a sense of emptiness. You eat because you don’t know what to do or you just don’t have anything to do.

Find a hobby. Start doing sports, collecting stamps, do anything that may bring joy and a sense of fulfilment in your life. Doing that will help you cope with emotions and prevent you from emotional snacking.

Secondly, don’t tempt yourself. Throw away all the comfort food like chocolates, crisps, etc. you store in your house. Notice that when you want to comfort yourself, you always reach for junk food. It’s all because they contain many calories and sugar or fat.

Your brain makes a mistake and believes junk food is necessary for your survival. It also tastes terrific. That’s why you shouldn’t tempt yourself. If you know that when you’re stressed, you eat a candy bar, throw them all away from your house.

Now that you don’t have any junk food in your house replace it with healthy food. Plan your meals, and don’t snack between them. You need to learn how to control your needs for eating. Emotional hunger is sudden, but it passes quickly, but if you have to eat something, eat a banana instead of a pack of crisps.

The third piece of advice is don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody. Lack of quality, family or social time can be one of the reasons why you turn to food for comfort. If you know that’s the case, try to spend as much as you can among people that make you happy.

But if that doesn’t work, you can always join special groups that are dedicated to people with similar problems. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone or seek advice from other people.

Another good idea would be to keep a food diary. By doing this, you’ll be able to see the pattern of your eating habits. That will help you learn more about them and make it easier to eliminate the ones that originate from certain emotions and situations.

So as you can see, there are plenty of ways you can implement to overcome emotional eating. But if these pieces of advice don’t work, it’s best to contact a specialist. Therapy is the best way to understand why you eat when you’re stressed, sad, anxious, etc.

8 Delicious and Healthy Alternatives To Your Favorite Junk Food

Habits are difficult to break, especially if you’ve lived with them for decades. However, it doesn’t mean that there’s no hope in changing the way you live your life. Although it’s really tough to go against your customary activities, you can start small and inch your way towards getting rid of the habit.

Unless you’re already a fitness buff or a nutrition expert, you’re probably experiencing bad eating habits. These can come in the form of not eating at the right time, or picking the wrong kinds of food. Whatever it is, remember that you can change the way you eat as long as you have the willpower to do so.

If you’re thinking about eating healthier, you may start by getting rid of junk food. This unhealthy food choice brings about a lot of health risks, caused mainly by lack of nutrition. According to a study reported in WebMD, junk food (and particularly fast food) contains low fiber, high calorie content, and high amounts of sugar and fat.

Before you continue reading this article, can we agree that junk food is bad for health? Good.

Now that we’re on the same page, the best way to get rid of your junk food addiction is to replace them with healthier alternatives. “While completely avoiding junk food is practically impossible, at the very least, you can satisfy your cravings by replacing junk foods with healthy substitutes,”. I’ll be sharing some suggestions on what you can eat in place of popular junk food items.

1. Homemade Organic Popcorn

Junk food to replace: Store-bought popcorn or its microwave variant

popcorn

A condition known as “popcorn lung” rose to infamy in the early 2000s after workers in a microwave popcorn factory were reported to have a high incidence of the disease. This health scare, described by MedicineNet.com as “a serious and irreversible condition in which the tiny air sacs in the lungs become scarred”, was caused by a compound named diacetyl that gives the popcorn its buttery aroma.

You don’t want to harm your lungs just because you want to chew on something while watching your favorite movie, right? If that’s the case, then you need to avoid microwave popcorn and prepare your own homemade organic popcorn.

2. Kale Chips

Junk food to replace: Potato chips

food salad-texture-green-kale

A typical bag of potato chips contains so much fat, which is never a great addition to your healthy diet. Instead of the ultra-fatty potato chips, you can use fresh kale to prepare your own kale chips. You may also look for pre-made kale chips in your local store if you don’t have time to make them yourself.

3. Sweet Potato Wedges (Baked or Roasted)

Junk food to replace: French fries

French fries can already be placed alongside popcorn and potato chips in terms of popularity, especially among fast food lovers. Unfortunately, a typical serving of French fries contains so much salt, calories, and trans fat enough to kiss your diet plans goodbye.

Switch to a better alternative in the form of sweet potato wedges. Sweet potato has more antioxidants than the same amount of potatoes. Make sure that you prepare the sweet potato wedges with olive oil and significantly less salt. More importantly, skip the deep fryer and send the wedges to a hot oven or on top of the grill.

4. Dried Fruit

Junk food to replace: Candy

dried fruit

Apart from providing sweetness and temporary satisfaction, candy does little benefit to the body. It consists primarily of sugar, with no protein, vitamins and minerals, or fiber. Eating candy will merely increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay.

Sure, dried fruit may not be as tasty as candy, nor can it lure children to give up their candy cravings. However, choosing this healthier alternative will save you and your family from potential health hazards.

Some of the best dried fruit variants include apricots, raisins, dates, or figs.

5. Whole-Wheat Banana Bread

Junk food to replace: Cake

On your next birthday party or special occasion, try to do away with traditional cakes because most of them contain loads of sugar and calories. A healthier substitute is banana bread, particularly if it’s made with whole-wheat flour and some nuts. It may not be as festive, but at least you’ll have an extended life to enjoy more years of joy and celebration.

6. Organic Dark Chocolate

Junk food to replace: Chocolate bar

chocolate

The original version of the decadent chocolate comes from real cacao beans, but some chocolate products now contain less of the chocolate and more of vegetable oils and milk. As a result, the health benefits of chocolate are compromised due to the unhealthy components mixed with it.

If you’re craving for chocolates, skip the branded milk-based variants and choose organic dark chocolate instead.

7. Yogurt

Junk food to replace: Ice cream

food-healthy-meal-grain-large

Don’t let its innocent looks deceive you. Sure, it tastes amazing and looks smooth and creamy, but ice cream is full of calories and fat. Instead of buying a tub of your favorite ice cream, switch to organic yogurt. This substitute contains a good amount of calcium, while probiotic yogurt improves the digestive system.

8. Lime Water

Junk food to replace: Soda or cola
drink lime

Soda does nothing to the human body except to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. As an emotional eater, you may be prone to choose sweetened drinks as well. If you’re looking for something to replace soda but still retain the kick that you feel every time you drink a glass, your best bet is a glass of water with a quick squeeze of lime or lemon. The citrus fruit adds a zest that will excite the bland taste of water, and it also provides Vitamin C and cancer-busting flavonoids.

Fatty and unhealthy food items may be in your fridge right now! Take out these sinful foods and replace them with healthier options listed above. In time – and if you can sustain this good habit – you can see yourself with less fat around your waist and an overall better health.

Conclusion

Emotional eating is a problem for many people in this world, so you’re not alone in this. If you want to change something, you have to learn what makes you seek comfort in food and then try to take steps to prevent yourself from that habit.

Remember that you need to take care of your emotional eating as soon as you can, through reaching the REAL problem, and the emotions you are trying to process. It will be easier for you to escape the emotional eating cycle when you recognize your symptoms fast and do something about it.

There are certain things you can do yourself, but sometimes it may not be enough. Remember that you shouldn’t be embarrassed about your problem. Reach out to people you love and trust, and they’ll be there for you. Seek professional therapy to balance your emotions and live happier, fullfilling life.

You can also look at pictures of food on your computer instead of eating it. The choice is yours.

About the author Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams is an avid blogger who specializes in dating advice. Her interests include gender relations and the underlying mechanisms that drive human interactions. You can check out her thoughts on men, sex, dating and love at Wingman Magazine .