Stop Emotional Eating with Mindful Eating
Mindful eating and emotional eating are both eating practices, one that will lead to personal peace, harmony and health, and the other providing an opposite set of outcomes.
How Can You Stop Eating Emotionally by Being Mindful?
Emotional eating can also be termed stress eating. This is because it often occurs as a response to stress. However, any emotion, either positive or negative, can trigger the unhealthy eating behaviors that are attached to emotional eating.
You may turn to unhealthy amounts of comfort food and junk food because you just bought your first new home, or got fired from a job, or some other emotion-packed event occurred in your life.
Mindful eating takes your emotions out of the equation. Have you ever had a parent, teacher or instructor tell you to keep your mind on what you were doing? They are telling you to be mindful of your actions.
When you focus and concentrate on whatever it is you are engaged in, your performance improves as do the results, and you limit the possibility of failure, injury and other possible negative outcomes.
In the same way, mindful eating is nothing more than being mindful of the eating process. When you eat mindfully, you focus on the texture, smell, taste, feel and sound of your eating experience.
You truly recognize each bite and chew your food sufficiently and thoughtfully. You prepare your food without thinking about anything else. You enjoy the cooking process as much as eating.
Much of emotional eating is mindless. You are not thinking about the eating process or what you are eating. Instead, you are thinking about your feelings and emotions. Being mindful about the whole eating process doesn't allow for your emotions to take control.
You can't give into positive or negative emotions, and develop negative eating behaviors because of those emotions, when you recognize and mindfully experience how, what, when and why you are eating.
Formula for Replacing Emotional Eating with Mindful Eating
The next time you are about to eat, or you are thinking about planning a meal, ask yourself the following questions.
WHY do I want to eat? What is the core reason, the truthful, honest reason, that I'm about to eat? Am I physically hungry? Am I eating out of habit? Am I eating simply because it is so certain time of day? Is there some deep down emotional need that is causing me to eat for comfort, or as a reward?
WHAT food am I about to eat? Is it comforting food to feed my emotions? Could I eat healthier food? If I am truly hungry and not emotionally eating, why not eat a healthy meal of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of junk food, comfort food or fast food?
The key to this process working is honesty. When you ask yourself, "Why am I eating," you need to answer that question honestly. Don't simply tell yourself that you are hungry. Ask yourself why you are hungry.
Is your hunger coming from your head or your heart instead of your stomach? This process involves being mindful of your moods before you eat, as well as being mindful of what you eat and why you are eating it.
When you force yourself to be aware of the food you are eating, the time you are eating it and what the underlying reason is that you are eating, this mindfulness can reveal that you were about to eat because of an emotional need.
In this way, if you eat mindfully at every meal and snack, you rob unhealthy emotional eating from causing poor nutrition habits. This is how being mindful at mealtime can reduce, or totally eliminate, your emotional eating episodes, and the poor health conditions they lead to.
Meditation or Hypnosis to Stop Emotional Eating
If emotional eating is as rampant and commonplace as nutritionists and health experts believe, this could be one of the reasons the human race is more overweight and obese than at any other time in our history.
We are eating because we are happy or sad, instead of when we are truly hungry, and in those occasions, the foods we consume are usually far from healthy. Then there is the problem with volume, because emotional eaters tend to down large quantities of this unhealthy food.
Overweight and obesity, heart disease and diabetes, as well as other health problems both brain and body-based, are your rewards for not eating properly. It makes sense then that if you could stop eating in response to a mood or feeling, and only eat when you are truly and physically hungry, you could avoid a long list of bothersome, dangerous and even deadly health problems.
Turning to an Ancient Answer - Meditation
Meditation has been used for thousands of years for stress-relief and other mental health benefits. Meditation practitioners point to physical health benefits due to the fact that your emotions are linked to your physical health, as well as your mental state of being. While many people have different ideas about what meditation is, it is simply a state where you are unconsciously aware.
In the early part of the 21st century, meditation has proven effective for many as an emotional eating treatment. Here is how to end emotional eating with meditation.
1 - The next time you are about to eat anything, a meal or snack, big or small, find a quiet place. Get seated comfortably or lie down, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Don't think about eating.
Don't think about existing. Just exist in the present moment. Focus on your breathing, being consciously aware of how you feel and what is happening as you breathe.
2 - Clear your thoughts. If any thought or emotion enters your mind, gently push it away. Your goal is to not consciously "think" about anything. You are not focusing on thinking, you are just being.
3 - When your mind is clear, think about a single occasion or event when you were peacefully happy. Focus on that one occasion only. See it in your mind. Don't judge it, just watch it in your mind. Attach positive words to that memory. Think of things like fulfillment, happiness, peace, serenity.
4 - Give yourself anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes for this process. Instead of an occasion or event, you may choose to focus on a physical object or simply continue to live in the moment, experiencing your breathing.
After this process, your emotions are calmed and soothed. They are not positively or negatively elevated or lowered. Now ask yourself why you were about to eat. In this meditative state, you will find it easy to answer yourself honestly. Maybe you actually were physically hungry.
If this is the case, eat a healthy meal, instead of the junk food and unhealthy food emotional eaters turn to. Do this frequently, and you will be able to quickly enter a state of consciousness that can help you end your unhealthy emotional eating habits.
Bypassing Your Conscious Mind to Beat Emotional Eating
Like meditation, hypnotherapy speaks directly to your unconscious mind. Your conscious thought patterns are bypassed, and through specific speaking patterns or relaxation techniques, you can reprogram your mental hardwiring.
When successful, hypnosis has proven nearly a miracle cure. The list of physical and mental problems hypnosis has been able to treat effectively is diverse and nearly endless.
Since your emotions are based in your thoughts and feelings, hypnosis is a logical and alternative treatment option. You speak directly to your subconscious, teaching it to avoid responding to emotions with negative eating behaviors.
Your unconscious mind can form new habits incredibly quickly, which means hypnotherapy may rapidly heal your unhealthy emotional eating episodes when everything else you have tried has failed.
How to Use Hypnotherapy to End Emotional Eating
Seek a licensed hypnotherapist in your area. You can alternately search Google or YouTube for "emotional eating hypnotherapy music" or "emotional eating binaural beats". There are self-hypnosis books, DVDs, CDs and courses sold online.
Whichever remedy you choose, get started as soon as possible. Healthy hypnosis will begin with you comfortably lying down, closing your eyes and attempting to remove your thoughts and emotions from your mind.
You will then listen to calming, soothing music that helps your mind enter an unconscious state rather than a conscious one. This music may or may not be accompanied with vocals or instructions.
When your hypnosis session is over, take a few deep breaths and tell yourself you're getting better at controlling how your emotions drive your eating habits. Feel good about this.
Tell yourself you are positively becoming more aware and conscious of everything that surrounds the eating process. Feel good about yourself. Tell yourself that you look forward to your next hypnosis session.
Immediately following your initial hypnosis or self-hypnosis session, you may feel a little unsettled. This is a typical response to hypnotherapy for beginners. After 3 to 5 sessions, you will begin to notice the following results.
"You will experience less stress and anxiety, and calmer, more even emotions.
"When your emotions are about to cause you to make a decision, you will be unconsciously aware this is happening, and more capable of controlling your emotional response.
"You will feel good about yourself, and you will want to practice this relaxing, calming, leveling process daily.
"In every aspect of your life, not just eating, you will begin to make smarter choices.
"You will become consciously aware when your emotions may be leading you to make unhealthy eating choices.
"You will find yourself feeling healthier and becoming healthier in mind and body.
You are going to experience emotions. It is part of the human condition. However, you don't need to get over those emotions by resorting to comfort food.
Hypnotherapy helps you maintain a healthier lifestyle and remove stress from your life, and since stress is one of the major motivators for emotional eating, this is how hypnosis may be able to end your emotional eating once and for all.
EFT or Tapping to Stop Emotional Eating
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has been referred to as "psychological acupressure". In acupuncture and acupressure, energy channels are recognized throughout your body. These are specifically located superhighways of energy flow, and they can become blocked by environmental toxins, mental stress and anxiety, poor diet and a number of other causes.
Acupressure and acupuncture work to clear up any blockages in these energy meridians, so your energy flows freely, and mental and physical health problems are abated.
EFT is a practice in the emerging field of energy psychology that recognizes emotional problems can lead to physical symptoms, diseases and illness. EFT is sometimes called tapping, because this treatment uses light tapping motions with your fingers on specific areas where energy meridians are located.
This is a much less invasive and frightful experience than the implanting of small needles, which is practiced in acupuncture. However, the idea is the same.
EFT tapping unblocks your clogged energy pathways, and both mental and physical symptoms and health problems are cleared up. This leads to energy harmony, and a stronger control of your emotions, as well as a control of your responses to your emotions.
Emotional Eating and EFT Tapping
Several experts on the subject believe that more often than not, people eat for emotional reasons, not physical hunger. This can be problematic for several reasons. First off, your health can take a turn for the worse.
You can become overweight or obese, develop diabetes or heart disease, and experience a long list of negative health consequences directly related to overeating and consuming junk food and comfort food.
Fortunately, EFT is an excellent methodology to help you decrease, or totally eliminate, your emotional eating episodes.
How to "Tap" to Stop Emotional Eating
Emotional eaters often crave a particular food. When you feel an emotional eating episode or unhealthy craving coming on, ask yourself what is it about the food that you like so much? What is it doing for you? What positive feelings is it giving you? Is it the tastiness or crunchiness of the food? Is it the fact that after eating, you feel happy, relaxed, soothed or content?
Now that you have an idea about what the food does for you when you eat emotionally, recognize that positive emotion. Give yourself the permission to feel the good sensations or emotions you get when you eat emotionally.
Next, create a "Reminder Phrase". This should be a phrase that reminds you of the current physical, mental or emotional problem you are experiencing, in the case of emotional eating, a craving to eat for the wrong reasons. You reminder phrase may be, "I am craving a large pizza with all the works and extra cheese."
Before you get started tapping, create and say your "Setup Affirmation" 3 times, while simultaneously tapping on the focus point. (The focus points are listed below). This affirmation should be formed as, "Even though ________, I profoundly and deeply love and accept myself."
You place your reminder phrase in the blank. In this example, you would say, "Even though I am craving a large pizza with all the works and extra cheese, I profoundly and deeply love and accept myself."
The Tapping Sequence
1 - Top of the head
2 - The inside ends of the eyebrows
3 - The outside of your eyes
4 - Directly under your eyes
5 - Beneath your nose and above your upper lip
6 - The center of your chin in the indentation below your lower lip
7 - The inner ends of your collarbones
8 - 3 or 4 inches below each of your armpits
9 - The inside of your wrist, below your palm
10 - Karate-chop point, located on the outside of your palm below your pinkie finger
Now you are going to move through the 10 energy meridian tapping points listed above. Say your reminder phrase out loud once or twice while tapping at each meridian point during the first sequence. Tap lightly and quickly with the tips of the pointer and middle fingers of one hand.
For the meridian points that have 2 sides, such as the collarbones, choose one side or the other. After moving through all 10 tapping points once, repeat the process, saying the reminder phrase one time per point.
When you have done so, after a few sequences, this unblocks important channels of energy that can lead to poor emotional and behavioral choices, such as emotional eating. Keep the positive and negative memories you have from eating whatever it is that you are craving.
Focus on those memories and emotions as you tap. After tapping all 10 tapping energy channels 2 or 3 times, express your level of emotional pain on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the most painful.
Then tap through another series, and check your painful emotions again. After a few sequences, you should be able to get the pain attached to your emotional eating cravings down to 3 or lower.
This means you have identified emotions as causing your eating behavior, not physical hunger, you are in control, and you most likely won't feel like eating any longer.
Since EFT recognizes emotional reasons are at the core of most health problems, whether they are physical or emotional, it makes the perfect treatment for emotion-based eating disorders. Not only do your negative emotions cause an imbalance in your body's natural energy system, but any imbalance in your energy flow can lead to emotions that you answer with unhealthy eating habits.
If you have tried in vain to conquer emotional eating, perhaps this relatively new form of energy healing will provide the relief you're looking for.
Difference Between Emotional Eating and Binge Eating
It is often believed that emotional eaters turn to food in order to handle some negative emotional experience. You get fired from your job, your spouse leaves you, you experience a traumatic event, or some other emotional upset happens in your life.
You rush to the store immediately, purchase pizza, chili, bacon, ice cream, cake, soda and sweets, and return home to try and stifle your painful emotions with addictive simple carbohydrates and junk food that cause addiction and health problems.
This is a typical reaction for the emotional eater. However, not all emotional eating takes place because of a negative experience. Unhealthy overeating of comfort foods and junk food may take place as a celebration of a joyful event. You land your dream job or you find the mate of your dreams.
Life is grand, and you celebrate by running out and purchasing pizza, chili, bacon, ice cream, cake, soda and sweets. Let the unhealthy food gorging begin.
In both of these cases, your unhealthy eating practices are triggered by some type of emotion. You are not eating because you are physically hungry.
You are either trying to stifle a less than enjoyable emotion, or you are recognizing positive emotions by eating large quantities of junk food and comfort food. This is classic emotional eating, not binge eating.
The Definition of Binge Eating
Binge eating, unlike emotional eating or stress eating, is a recognized eating disorder. It is characterized by eating significantly more food than someone normally would in a specific period of time, usually less than a couple of hours. Answering your emotions by eating can definitely lead to binge eating.
However, binge eating is not always an emotional response. Some binge eaters speak of almost being in a trance while they consume massive amounts of unhealthy food over the period of an hour or two. They feel absolutely powerless to stop.
They have no control, and often report that they feel like they are outside of their body, watching themselves uncontrollably eat. Many binge eaters talk about having no emotions at all when they are consuming large quantities of food.
When they are binge eating, the amount of food consumed is several times what a person would normally eat in that period of time. Emotions don't always play a part. However, there are negative emotions experienced after binge eating for most of these types of eaters.
It is understandable to feel disgust and depression, guilt and shame, when you look at the carnage around you and realize you just ate three double cheeseburgers, three large orders of fries, an entire pie and a pint of ice cream, and washed it all down with a 2 liter bottle of soda.
To summarize, emotional eating is the practice of unhealthy eating habits in response to a feeling or emotion. Binge eating is the consumption of massive amounts of food in a short period of time, which may or may not have emotional causes.
With binge eating, the person is usually focusing on what they are eating, as opposed to why they are eating. If someone is eating for emotional reasons, they are often well aware why they are doing what they are doing.
Emotional Eating and Diabetes
Is there any link between emotional eating, also called stress eating, and diabetes? Does one lead to the other? Can you have one without the other?
The Mayo Clinic tells us that type II diabetes "... develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin."
They then mention that being overweight or obese can contribute to the development of this health issue. Not everyone turns to food in order to deal with their emotions.
However, the day your doctor sits you down and reveals that you have type II diabetes, if you are the type of person that eats for emotional reasons, that prognosis could certainly trigger an unhealthy binge eating episode. In this way, the development of diabetes can cause a negative emotional state which triggers emotional eating.
Since the foods that are usually the target of an emotional eater are simple carbohydrates and sweets in many cases, this can cause a dramatic imbalance in your blood sugar level. To manage diabetes you have to learn to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range.
Health foods are not usually the first things emotional eaters reach for. Because of this, if you don't learn to curb or eliminate your emotional eating when you have type II diabetes, you can make the condition worse.
Stressful, Emotional Eating as a Cause of Diabetes
Let's pretend for a moment that you have never in your life turned to comfort food and unhealthy eating habits in response to an emotion. You have never indulged in an excess of sweet treats because something didn't go your way, and you always practiced restraint when food was a part of some celebration or ceremony.
For whatever reason, because of lifestyle choices, being overweight, inactivity and other causes, you develop diabetes. Type II diabetes is by no means a death sentence.
Millions of people live successfully with this affliction. It is possible to manage and even beat type II diabetes. As mentioned earlier, the key is monitoring and regulating blood sugar. When some people turn to food as a way to deal with emotions good or bad, overeating routinely occurs.
Too many calories and simple carbohydrates are consumed, and this can lead to a dramatic rise in blood sugar levels. This is how emotional eating can worsen the experience for someone with diabetes.
The lesson then is that if you do not control your eating behavior when you experience extremely high or low emotions, diabetes can be an unfortunate result. If you are coping with type II diabetes currently, you have to be careful not to binge on unhealthy foods in order to celebrate a joyful emotion or soothe a negative set of feelings.
Diabetic or not, the long list of health problems emotional eating can cause are reasons enough to try to get your unhealthy mood-based eating patterns under control.
Is Emotional Eating A Sign of Depression?
Depression is a normal human emotion, and it is experienced by just about everyone. You feel upset or dejected because of some event or situation, or you are despondent because of something you perceive as negative in your life, possibly caused by your own behaviors.
Depression can exist for a number of reasons, and with most people, it is usually short-lived. We find a way to move past our negative feelings, we experience joy and other positive feelings, and the depression cloud is lifted.
What happens when you are depressed and go on an unhealthy eating binge?
Is that emotional eating episode a sign that you are depressed, or a cause of the depression? Are the two related at all? Is there a causal relationship, or is this just a coincidence?
Emotional Eating - a Cause and Symptom of Depression
Your emotional state when you are eating to improve your mood or celebrate a joyful feeling is not the healthiest. After you have finished gorging on unhealthy food, you may experience frustration, self-hatred, and even depression.
You can't believe that once again you ate so much comfort food, and you are angry with yourself. This self-doubt as to why you can't control your eating can blossom into full-blown depression.
Depression also may develop as a state of emotions that leads to mood-based eating. You are depressed over your financial situation, a lack of control in your life, a failed relationship or some other perceived loss or failure.
Your brain remembers that when you ate certain comfort foods and junk foods in the past, the chemicals in those foods caused a release of "feel good" hormones.
Your brain sends out an immediate hunger signal, begging you to locate and consume the unhealthy comfort foods which unfortunately lead to such a positive, short-term emotional feeling. In this way, your emotional eating was caused by your depressed mental state.
Psychologists and nutritionists have noticed this relationship between depression and eating for emotional reasons.
Sometimes depression causes stress eating, and many times, the feelings which accompany this unhealthy eating habit can lead to depression. However, the two are not always connected.
Emotional eating sometimes occurs when you are overjoyed. You turn to comfort foods to reinforce a wonderful event in your life that has caused positive emotions. When you eat this way most of the time, celebrating positive feelings by overeating unhealthy comfort and junk food, you can still do your body a lot of damage.
However, this behavior is triggered by "up" emotions, and not the "down" emotional state of depression.
Battling the Emotional Eating/Depression Relationship
The next time you are feeling blue, address your feelings. Think about why you are so down and depressed, and be aware that this mental state could cause an unhealthy eating reaction.
When you realize you are eating in response to an emotion, don't beat yourself up about it. This could lead to a full-blown bout of depression, further damaging your emotional health along with your physical well-being.
Why Is Emotional Eating Bad For You?
From the time we are born, we associate food with love. The first food we take in is mother's milk. Unconsciously, at this very tender and formative age, we associate this sustaining food with the love of our mother. From this very earliest eating experience, a positive emotion is attached to feeding.
As we get older, delicious sweets and treats are associated with positive life events such as birthdays and holidays. Complete with simple carbohydrates and sugar, many of these foods are extremely unhealthy. Unfortunately, they trigger a release of chemicals that leads to short-term positive emotions. It is in this way that some people become addicted to junk food, and find it very difficult to resist.
Since emotional eating almost always seeks to deliver positive emotions through food, and the food that emotional eaters consume is not usually the healthiest, a myriad of health problems can develop. This is why it is so important to get a handle on exactly why you eat, what you eat, and when you eat.
The 2 Main Problems Caused by Emotional Eating
When emotions drive your eating behavior, you typically eat too much food, and the wrong types of food. This can lead to any number of health conditions, including obesity, depression, heart disease, skin problems, etc. This brings to light one of the 2 major problems which emotional eating causes...
Emotional eating is bad for you when it happens most of the time. Emotional eaters don't usually gorge on healthy fruits and vegetables.
They eat food with sugar, salt, white flour, gravy, cheese, ice cream, baked goods, sweets and treats, and they eat large, unhealthy quantities. Because these foods don't have the nutrients, minerals and vitamins your body needs to stay healthy, you encounter a number of brain and body-based health problems.
Since these foods contain chemicals and ingredients which cause addiction, such as HFCS - high fructose corn syrup - you get hooked on unhealthy foods as opposed to healthier alternatives, and poor health is your reward.
Ignoring Your Emotions
The second major way emotional eating causes problems in your life has to do with something it does not accomplish. When you eat food in response to an emotional need, you are not addressing your emotions. You are ignoring your emotional health, while simultaneously creating physical and mental health problems.
The core emotion at the base of your stress eating never gets the attention it needs, so you continue to suffer emotionally. Emotional eating is bad for you because it damages your body physically, promotes mental health problems, and you stay emotionally unfulfilled.
The next time you are about to attack an extra-large serving of comfort food, ask yourself if you are really hungry. If you would be happy eating a bowl of vegetables instead of a pizza, you are probably experiencing physical hunger. If your hunger comes on suddenly and you absolutely must have comfort food only, you are probably, and most assuredly, eating as a response to your emotions.
How Do You Know If You Have An Emotional Eating Disorder?
Emotional eating is not recognized as its own, separate eating disorder. However, it is a problem because it can lead to multiple health issues. Also, emotional eating is frequently seen as a behavior that accompanies classic eating disorders, sometimes as a cause and sometimes as a symptom.
You may have recognized times in your life where you answered a negative or positive emotion by eating and indulging in too much food.
Does this mean that you are absolutely out of control with your emotions, and you have a real eating problem? On the other hand, this could be normal behavior that is not a real problem, if you don't do it most of the time. The bottom line is this ... you want to know how you can determine if you have a full-blown emotional eating problem or not.
Symptoms of Emotional Eating
Here are a few of the more common signs and symptoms of an emotional eating issue that is out of control.
oYou have a hunger that attacks suddenly. Real hunger builds up slowly. Emotional eating, also called stress eating, hits you out of nowhere. This is one way for you to recognize emotional as opposed to physical hunger. The urge to eat is sudden and sometimes overwhelming, and this is not how the normal, physiological hunger process works.
oYou eat mindlessly. You eat just to be eating, while you are watching TV or talking on the phone, and before you know it, all you have around you are several empty fast food wrappers.
oYou never feel full. When you eat in response to physical hunger, you get full eventually. Sometimes emotional hunger continues to attack long after you have eaten enough food to answer a physical hunger attack.
oEmotional hunger is hallmarked by specific comfort foods. If you went without eating for two or three days, even the most hated vegetables would be consumed rapidly. Normal hunger means eating just about anything to satiate your hunger signal. If your eating is emotion-based, you want nothing but a pizza, a cheeseburger, ice cream or some other specific unhealthy, comfort food.
oYour hunger signals don't come from your stomach. We have all had a growling in our stomach telling us to eat. Emotional hunger often is a mental craving, instead of a signal from your gut.
oIf eating causes guilt, regret, shame and self-hatred, you are likely eating in response to some emotion. When your body sends out a signal to your brain to tell you to eat for nutrition-based reasons, you don't usually suffer from negative emotions after eating.
oYou notice that you eat more when you are in a particular situation or environment. Often times, emotional eaters develop stress-related patterns of poor eating behaviors. You overeat unhealthy comfort foods any time you are around a specific coworker, in your car heading to and from work, when you are studying for a test, or in some other stressful situation on a regular and repetitive basis.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
If you have attempted to stifle sorrow or celebrate joy by eating, you know what mood-based eating is all about. It is normal to celebrate your birthday with some cake and ice cream, but emotional eating gets out of control when it happens most of the time.
This can lead to health problems like overweight and obesity, diabetes and heart problems, and brain-based issues like stress, anxiety and depression. People who don't have a problem with emotional eating tend to believe it is caused by a simple lack of self-control. The emotional eater should just "toughen up", and stop overeating as a response to feelings rather than hunger.
That approach leads to no resolution, because people with eating disorders are sometimes the most dedicated to solving their problems. They go on diets and seek the aid of mental health professionals, but for one reason or another, for some people, emotions continue to trigger an eating response.
Why is this?
What is causing so many people to eat in an attempt to regulate their moods, rather than for hunger? The answers are many, and as diverse as individuals are. However, nutritionists, psychologists and eating disorder specialists have identified some triggers which show up again and again when emotional eating is present.
If you find any of the following causes of this eating issue are present in your life, it can help you avoid giving into eating for emotional reasons.
Hating Your Body
You may think people unhappy with the way they look physically, will diet and eat less in an attempt to create the transformation they are looking for. However, it is very common to do just the opposite. You may hate the way you look, and this opinion is negatively reinforced by a countless stream of marketing messages which tell you that you must look a certain way.
You don't like how your body looks, and this negative feeling causes you to eat comfort foods so that you can feel better momentarily. After your emotional eating session, you realize that you probably didn't do your body any favors. This drives home your feelings of shame and self-hatred, unhealthy and untrue emotions that you tried to appease with food. Loving yourself now is necessary to stop the emotional eating cycle which is causing more damage to your body.
A Lack of Awareness
Unconscious eating is often emotionally based. You are not conscious of what you are doing, what you are eating or why you are eating. When a moment of clarity and consciousness hits you, you realize what you have just eaten. To cure this, be aware and mindful of every time you eat, and honest with yourself as to why you are eating.
Eating Is the Only Thing You Have To Look Forward To
For some, food is perceived as the only good thing in their life. Therapists say emotional eaters often look forward to their meals, because they see eating and its temporary pleasure as the best thing they ever experience.
Some foods cause the release of chemicals that trigger a pleasure response as powerful as cocaine and heroin. Unfortunately, these are usually junk foods that are less than healthy.
Going Too Long Without Eating
Some people tend to eat just one meal a day. Unfortunately, this leaves your body starved of the nutrients it needs most of the day. This means you are mentally not prepared to deal with urges and cravings, and when you finally do eat, it is very easy to overeat comfort foods to answer the "I have been starving all day!" message your brain is giving off.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Have you ever celebrated a big promotion or some life event with a celebratory dinner complete with your favorite "feel good" foods? Or have you had to deal with sadness, and to help you deal with your emotions, a gallon of rocky road ice cream seems the perfect prescription.
We do it all the time. We answer emotional needs by eating. We may or may not be physically hungry, but nonetheless, we consume "comfort food" in response to the way we feel. This is called emotional eating. While emotional eating is not an eating disorder itself, it is a common symptom of people with eating disorders.
Put very simply, emotional eating is when you use food in an attempt to manage your moods. More often than not, this is an unconscious response, rather than a rational choice.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon practice. Those who study eating disorders believe that as much as 75% of all eating takes place because of emotions. That is a staggering statistic. That means that most of the time when you eat, you are not simply trying to give your body the nutrition it needs to function properly. Most of the time, you are trying to regulate your mood with food.
Emotional Eating Wrecks Your Diet Plans
How powerful is eating for emotional needs? A study reported in Obesity magazine showed that emotional eaters who successfully lose weight by following some diet are much more likely to gain that weight back than non-emotional eaters.
This doesn't mean normal celebratory eating because of a birthday, holiday or anniversary.
Some emotional eating is good. When you are spending time honoring a celebration or holiday with friends and family, and good food is a part of that celebration, you create wonderful memories that you can look back on and smile. Rewarding yourself with your favorite comfort food at the end of a week successfully following a strict diet just makes sense too.
The problem occurs when you consistently turn to emotional eating as a coping mechanism. You overeat on a regular basis, and the foods you focus on are generally not that good for you. Constant emotional eating can lead to eating problems such as night eating syndrome or binge eating disorder.
Why Eating to Manage Moods Doesn't Work
People who overeat to calm their emotions usually feel bad about what they're doing. They are upset about their relationship with food. After they have consumed a lot of comfort food in order to make themselves feel better about something, they realize what they have done. This causes them to feel distressed and frustrated at themselves.
Guess what happens? They answer those negative emotions with food. This creates a vicious cycle where poor health, obesity, overweight, diabetes and depression are often the rewards for this unhealthy eating practice.
If you are concerned you may be responding to your emotions with food too frequently, talk to a therapist or mental health professional.
You may also want to take the emotional eating test offered for free by Psychology Today. That test takes about 25 minutes, and is located at the following link.