Emotional eating is about turning to food for comfort, stress relief or as a reward rather than to satisfy hunger. 

Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings so we are going to discuss emotional eating and its triggers and give you some tips to help you fight emotional food cravings and satisfy your needs using mindful eating.


Understanding Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better, rather than to fill your stomach.  If any of the following apply to you, then you may be an emotional eater.

You eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
You eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
You eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
You reward yourself with food?
You regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

We celebrate with food on many occasions like Easter, birthdays, Christmas and certain holidays and special occasions…

And whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing it can become a habit and can lead to emotional eating.  Overindulging on these occasions does not necessarily mean that you are an emotional eater.  However, when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism, if your first impulse is to open your food cupboard or the fridge whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted or bored, then you are an emotional eater.

You end up getting stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed as emotional hunger can never be filled with food.

You may feel good or better in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there and often you feel worse than you did before.  You often end up feel guilty for messing up and not having more willpower and you have a more and more challenging time controlling your weight. You feel increasingly powerless over both food and your feelings.Stopemotionaleating_2Emotional Hunger vs Physical Hunger

It is important to be aware of and understand the differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger as this sometimes on its own can help you break the cycle of emotional eating as you can start to identify whether it is emotional or physical hunger.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and feels overwhelming and urgent whereas physical hunger comes on more gradually. The urge to eat does not feel like an emergency unless of course you haven’t eaten for a very long time.

When you’re physically hungry you will eat anything even healthy stuff like vegetables. But with emotional hunger you feel like you need sugary or fatty foods and nothing else will do.

Emotional hunger is often mindless eating, you start eating and before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole packet of biscuits, a whole bag of chips or an entire bar of chocolate and not really enjoyed it as you are too busy focused on your emotions rather than the food. 

When you eat because you are physically hungry you typically pay more attention to what you eat.

Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach; it is a craving that you can’t get out of your head whereas physical hunger is a rumbling tummy or actual hunger pangs in your stomach.

In Part 2 tomorrow I conclude this feature and start by helping identify emotional eating triggers.

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