Emotional Eating

Ksenia Khor

Ksenia is a communications student, avid traveller, and book lover. She is passionate about art, fashion, theatre, spirituality and well-being.

Mass media and internet are bursting with advice on how we can become thinner, healthier and prettier, especially through dieting.  Even though everyone seems to be crazy about improving their eating habits, weight issues still remain quite hot among both men and women. Is being overweight a genetic curse that can’t be broken? Or, maybe, we just can’t control ourselves with food and our will power is somewhat a joke. However, the reason why we still carry those extra kilos sometimes lies much deeper in our psyche than we thought.

Current body obsessions caused a spur in complicated relationships with food that can undermine any eating regimes. Some of them result in eating disorders, but others affect our lives in a more subtle way. For instance, in the moments of stress, anxiety or sadness, have you ever eaten fatty food or sweets to make yourself feel better? Have you continued eating even when you were full? Or, have you used food as a reward? If you answer yes to any of those questions, then, you probably, experienced the so-called emotional eating.

For many of us food is not just a fuel. We are emotionally attached to it. For example, we can associate some of our favourite foods with childhood memories or people we love. That is why it is natural for us to celebrate significant events and achievements with a great meal, or occasionally use our favourite sweets to cheer ourselves up. If those indulgences are present in our lives in moderation, there’s nothing daunting or harmful about them. Moreover, delicious treats can actually improve our sense of well-being. However, the problems start when food becomes the first and foremost solution to emotional roller coasters.

Stress, loneliness, sadness and fear are all part of our everyday lives. But not all of us can always successfully cope with them, especially, if some of those feelings become particularly overwhelming. In this case, food can become the easy-accessible and instant feel – good dope. Unfortunately, its effects are not lasting and, more importantly, eating does not solve any problems. It can actually create new ones as constant emotional eating can cause a weight-gain and, subsequently, a sense of guilt and powerlessness that may, in turn, lead to more attempts of comforting ourselves through food consumption.  In other words, we can get trapped in unhealthy eating and emotional cycles that can affect our bodies and minds.

If emotional eating significantly affects your life and weight, the last thing you want to do is to go on a diet because you are most likely to fail. Strict control over you food consumption can trigger your cravings and emotional hunger. Before committing yourself to an eating regime, it’s better to assess the roots of your relationship with food and emotional eating and, also, learn to distinguish between physical and psychological hungers. One of the most effective ways to do so is through therapy. However, you can also improve your eating and psychological patterns yourself.

First of all, it is important to understand the differences between the physical hunger and emotional. The first is a body signal; the second appears suddenly when you feel stressed or anxious. Some other features of emotional eating are a craving of fatty and sugary foods, mindless food consumption without enjoyment, and feelings of guilt or regret it causes.

Second, don’t try and change your eating patterns in one go. Getting emotional eating under control require patience and time. One of the first steps to overcome it is to indentify the reasons of emotional hunger. Do you get sudden sugar cravings when you’re trying to suppress negative emotions? Do you reach out for food when you’re feeling bored? Or, do you constatnly reward yourself with a variety of unhealthy snacks? To find the answers for such question, you may want to work on your self-awareness and pay more attention to your thoughts and feelings. Maybe, you’ll also find that keeping a diary of what you eat quite useful for that matter.

After you identified you ‘triggers’,  try to find a way to deal with your emotions without consuming extra calories. For instance, call a good friend when you’re feeling lonely, try out a new activity to make youself less bored and don’t forget the power of laughter when you’re sad. In other words, make small changes to your life.If you feel that emotional hunger is absorbing you, try to take a short pause. Several seconds of breathing can make a difference as they will allowyou to take control over the eating impulse and therefore stop you from overeating.

The most important step, and probably the hardest, is to learn to accept your emotions. Even though positive feelings are in favour in our culture, negative ones are also part of our personality. They help us to live life more fully and appreciate its good moments. You should face your emotions no matter how negative they are and accept them as part you. When you do so, you’ll be able to deal with them more effectively and, consequently, let go of habits of emotional eating.

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