Emotional eating is considered to be the the number one reason why diets don’t work! If you ever find yourself being emotional, due to sadness, joy, anger, boredom etc, and reaching for a snack without even thinking about it and without actually being hungry, then you are an emotional eater. Food, especially the ones that are rich in sugar and fat, causes the brain to release dopamine which stimulates the pleasure centres of the brain. So, whenever people are in stress or are feeling low they tend to subconsciously move towards such foods that will help them feel better again. Even when people are excited and happy they tend to celebrate with such foods. Boredom can also make a person seek something to snack on, just to avoid getting bored.
It has been observed that a lot of people suffer from emotional eating and the reason can be tendencies that develop since childhood (click here to see the official study). For instance, as a kid, if your parents rewarded your good deeds by cooking your favourite dish or by purchasing candies, then that gesture must have lead to the conditioning where you feel acknowledged and appreciated only after treating yourself with delicacies. Some parents also use food to please an upset child and that can lead to emotional dependence on food to feel better. Sometimes eating your favourite food can take you back to the happy memories that you have associated with that food and this feeling can lead to emotional eating.
A Vicious Circle:
Emotional eating is a vicious circle, you eat in order to feel better and you obtain satisfaction for some time however, the satisfaction is immediately replaced by the guilt of overeating and then you start feeling bad again. People start tying their emotional well being to their weight and think that they are sad because they overeat and it leads to a stage where they are either dieting or overeating. Moreover, consuming food to replace emotions, leads to people becoming both physically and emotionally unhealthy.
How To Avoid Emotional Eating:
Keeping Track of Your Food Intake:
There are a few things that you need do in order to avoid this unhealthy eating. The first thing is to keep a track and be aware of your food intake. Try to maintain a journal just for your food intake. Make a note of what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat. Also write down how you felt before and after eating the food. Within a few days time, a concrete pattern will emerge and you might realize that you tend to eat more when you are in a certain mood. This process will confirm if you are an emotional eater or not. Once you understand this you can be aware of it every time you go for a snack in the middle of an emotional crisis. Being conscious of the habit is the foremost and the only step for a lot of people that can control themselves and avoid eating at such times. But for the others who are unable to control themselves from emotional snacking, there are other effective methods that can help them in changing their eating habits.
Exercise or Take Up Hobbies To Avoid It.
Exercise on a regular basis and find other such engrossing activities that can help to release your stress. Exercising also discharges the chemicals in the brain that can make you feel cheerful. It will help you stay in shape and you won’t need to eat in order to de-stress. You can also play games – indoor or outdoor, talk to your friends or find a hobby. These activities will help you to stay fit both mentally and emotionally and reduce stress levels so you can avoid stress eating. Even reading a book can be a good hobby to have so that whenever you have free time or when you start feeling bored, instead of snacking and watching TV you can read a book and thus prevent overeating.
Change Your Outlook. If you have been an emotional eater for a long time and it has resulted in you being fat and it’s the reason why you can’t lose weight, then you need to change your outlook towards weight loss. Also if you usually feel guilty after a binge of emotional eating, then you will have to separate your emotional well being with the way you look. You need to go for a general self care and fitness rather than just be concerned about losing weight and retort to emotional eating. Changing focus to general health and fitness will help you separate your emotions from your food intake and that way you can control the habit of emotional eating.
Plan Other Ways To Vent Your Emotions. You can make a list of all such things that you can do whenever you are stressed, and keep that list handy to look at whenever you feel like eating. Including such activities in your daily routine will make sure that you are mentally healthy and don’t need to look for food in order to feel good. Additionally, if you eat when you are angry, try to control your anger in some other way. You can try taking deep breaths or meditate or listen to soothing music. When you are angry and having a fight with someone, leave that place and go where there’s nothing to eat. Strictly avoid going into the kitchen and try to be alone for a while till you calm down. Moreover, if you are unable to control yourself from eating a bowl of ice cream whenever you are sad, then try to get low fat ice cream, because that will prevent you from feeling too guilty and lead to another bout of eating. Also, try snacking on healthy foods and fresh fruit instead of harmful junk food that are rich in fat and sugar.
To conclude, emotional eating is a wide-spread disorder and it is basically a type of addiction towards food. You need to begin by admitting that there is an issue and be mindful of it all the time. However, just like most addictions it can be kicked and replaced by healthier habits and in fact it is much easier to stop the habit of emotional eating. You just have to pay attention to your overall health and solve any kind of deep-rooted issues that you might face on a daiy basis and separate it from food. Taking care of your mental and physical health will go a long way in helping you avoid emotional eating.
If you lack motivation for losing weight feel free to check out this article which will help you.