Do you start eating food when you feel emotional and sad? If yes, you might be suffering from an emotional eating disorder.
It is a condition in which a person starts eating when they feel emotionally low. It happens primarily due to stress, anxiety, or depression. While your emotions are not directly related to food; eating something sugary, fatty, or high in calories gives you instant energy and the taste makes you feel good which suppresses your negative feelings for a while. While these may feel good, it becomes the reason that you might get obese or have other health issues. The good news is you can easily manage your eating habits by following some simple steps.
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Keep reading this article to learn all about emotional eating.
What is emotional eating?
An emotional eating disorder can be defined as an urge to eat to suppress your feelings and/or to feel better. Eating helps to suppress your negative emotions such as fear, sadness, workload, stress, anger, or loneliness. Emotional eating helps you to manage your negative feelings throughout the day, but it has some negative effects too.
The food you consume to suppress emotions is not healthy and contains high calories, sugary substances, or processed fats. These types of foods are called gateway foods as they lead to unhealthy dietary habits. Pastries, biscuits, meat, desserts, etc. are some of the gateway foods that people rely on. This not only leads to overweight and obesity but some other health issues as well.
While food directly doesn’t influence your emotions and feelings but gives you an instant energy boost for a while and its taste gives you a sense of pleasure which reduces your negative feelings.
Emotional eating is caused by any negative feelings you feel throughout your day and to manage those feelings you start relying on eating. While it does satisfy your need temporarily your feelings will return shortly after. The most common triggers that cause emotional eating are:
- Work stress
While stress from work is the most common form of stress that leads to emotional eating, you can get stress from other life events too. To suppress stress, the body releases cortisol which triggers your craving for food to give you instant energy or pleasure.
- Relationship conflicts
While it does not happen daily its influence stays for several days. Because these types of conflicts give many negative emotions that need to be suppressed to feel normal, which leads to relying on food or alcohol.
- Weakness or tiredness
Whenever you feel weak or tired and you need the energy to work, the only thing that comes to mind is food. In that case, people can rely on healthy food but people who need instant energy tend to eat more sugary or fatty foods.
- Financial pressure
Financial pressure makes you feel stressed or depressed. To resolve your financial problem, you need to work hard or come up with something that helps you to manage your financial crisis. And to manage those negative feelings, the body releases cortisol hormone which can increase your cravings for sweet, and high-calorie foods to provide instant energy and pleasure.
- Health problems
Health problems like binge eating, chronic stress, underweight problems, etc. can lead to emotional eating.
- Sudden traumas
Sudden traumas like death in family or friends shatter your emotional belief system. While a person cannot feel relieved by talking to someone, relying on food seems like the best option to feel better. This emotional eating develops into unhealthy food habits.
When you feel bored and have nothing to do, you can easily feel the urge to eat because eating gives you energy and pleasure which can take away the boredom and emptiness you feel in your life.
- Stuffed feelings
When you feel many emotions in you together and you want anything to suppress them, eating something might seem like the best option to temporarily shut down your feelings for a while. But it never is the permanent solution.
Management and prevention
You can manage your emotional eating problem by identifying your triggers which mostly happen from negative feelings, and by taking necessary steps to counter your eating problems, including:
- Keeping a food diary: This will allow you to track down your eating, how frequently you eat, what you eat when you eat, and how you are feeling. This will give you an idea of what triggers lead to emotional eating.
- Manage your stress: You can easily manage your stress by using stress management techniques like yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation.
- Avoid your boredom: You get bored if you have nothing to do. Right? Why not build a habit which can help your goals or helps to develop your mind? Learning a skill, reading books, doing research, etc. are one of the few things that keep you away from your boredom.
- Fight your cravings: Your cravings make you eat the same type of food whenever you feel low. Try some activities that calm your mind and allow you not to give in to your cravings.
- Get a hunger reality check: If you eat your meal sometime before and still want to eat something, it does not mean you are hungry you just have a craving, which you need to avoid.
- Get help from family or friends: Eating provides you with temporary solutions but sharing your feelings with your friends and family gives you a permanent solution to your problem which overcomes your negative feelings. Rely more on friends or family or join a support group whenever you feel down.
- Eat healthy snacks: If you want to eat a snack between meals consider eating a fruit or vegetable, nuts or butter-free popcorn, or a low-calorie version of your favorite food.
- Learn from your setbacks: If you fail once to keep yourself away from your emotional eating that is okay. Learn from your setback and get back on track to fight your emotions so that next time you don’t eat anything because you are feeling low.
In case all the above-mentioned steps fail to produce desired results, visiting a mental doctor/therapist is the only way to get the right treatment for your problem, you also learn the reasons behind your emotional eating and how to manage them with new coping techniques.
An emotional eating disorder is a type of eating disorder that is triggered by negative emotions. While it can increase your weight or physical problems. But you can easily manage them by following the above-mentioned steps or by getting help from the doctor.
Want to know more about managing emotional eating?
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