EMOTIONAL EATING: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO NAVIGATE THROUGH IT
Sometimes we might just ask ourselves questions like:
How can I stop eating out of boredom?
“How do I resist the urge to snack all day especially when I’m stressed out?”
“How do I take control of my overeating when I feel depressed?”
“Why do I turn to food when I am happy, sad or stressed?”
If one of these questions is familiar with you, then this article is a must read for you.
This article enlightens you on emotional eating, its types and how you can understand and navigate through it.
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL EATING?
Inarguably, eating has emotions attached to it. Culturally, for kids especially, emotions depict they are hungry; if a child cries too much, it shows they’re hungry and they are fed immediately.
But, on a basic level though, ultimately, food is for nourishment, then maybe pleasure could come in, but also sometimes comfort to. The idea of using food to soothe emotions isn’t inherently a “bad thing”.
Turning to food when you’re hungry is your body saying there’s something that should be addressed, and that’s surely a coping tool.
SO WHY FOOD?
Negative emotions comes with a feeling of emptiness, and for some people, food could help them feel a sense of temporary wholeness.
Other factors might include:
• retreating from social support during times
of emotional need
• not engaging in activities that might otherwise
relieve stress, sadness, and so on
• not understanding the difference between physical and emotional
• using negative self-talking that’s related to bingeing
episodes. This can create a cycle of emotional eating
• changing cortisol levels in response to stress, leading to
UNDERSTANDING TYPES OF EMOTIONAL EATING
There are four main avenues to emotional eating:
1) Breaking a food rule: this happens when you set a rule about some foods which you’re not supposed to eat but still find yourself eating those foods or one of them which could cause distress.
For example, you eat a cookie, feel bad about the act, but still go ahead to finish it and even more than expected.
2) Experiencing a strong emotion that reduces appetite: Like if you’re really anxious, you might feel a bit sick and not want to eat. So you eat less.
3) The backlash of restriction: happens when boredom, stress or loneliness causes you to start eating those foods you already termed “bad” in the past without control. According to research, it is more prevalent among dieters (obsessed with weight loss) than non-dieters.
4) Comfort eating: this happens when you find yourself eating to distract yourself from unpleasant or uncomfortable situations. This automatically leads to overfeeding.
The manner we were raised, either by societal values or individual perspectives affects our ability to cope effectively with what life throws at us. Your parents approach to frustration and disappointments, and how they trained you to coping with those situations matters a lot.
So what can you do to manage emotional eating?
To understand emotional eating, first you’d have to understand its roots, which could be as check lists:
1. Have you eaten enough?
The real reason behind emotional eating is still hunger. Most times, you don’t get to eat enough, so you term it ‘emotional eating’. If you don’t get enough food to eat during the day, there’ll surely be a drive to eat, and when you eat thereafter, you’re likely to eat beyond what feels comfortable. When this happens, they start out with compensatory behaviors like over-exercising and heavy restrictions which would later backfire.
What can you do? Fill your belly first! Hunger can present itself in mood, reduced energy levels, and lightheadedness.
A few tips for you to consider:
a. Eat at least 3 meals a day, and snack regularly with snacks and vegetables for easier satiety?
b. Have a balanced proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in each meal.
c. Increased your physical activity, be active!
2. Can you identify what you’re feeling?
This might seem futile for you especially if you’re used to bottling your emotions or suppressing them. You have to identify if you’re sad, depressed, if you fee self-pity, irritated etc.
3. Identify coping tools
For almost everyone, eating could be part of their coping tools, and removing it might cause a stir. So, its better to look for other coping tools to add to food.
Get a jotter and make lists as:
– people you can call when you feel emotional and want to vent or just talks (parent, friend, close pal etc.)
– Good options to relax like taking a stroll, taking a hot bath, read a book etc.
– places you go could go to calm down (e.g. your bed, outdoors, to the beach, a park etc).
– things you can say to yourself (“you’ve got this”, “this feeling will pass”).
– activities you can do to distract yourself (e.g. start a puzzle, watch a film etc).
Emotional eating isn’t inherently bad. Most times it’s a clue your body is giving you to respond to its urgent need, you just need to learn how to know what that need is.
If you’re looking to improve your relationship with food and manage emotional eating, you could always speak to a dietitian.