Emotional Eating: The Habit You Need to Kick

Among the many things that can stress us out in daily life, food is sometimes used to soothe or combat that stress. Emotional eating results in not only eating when the body isn’t necessarily hungry, but also in causing cravings for unhealthy foods in the process, making it a combination of unhealthy eating and mental health.

Often renamed as ‘comfort foods,’ these types of foods usually offer little to no nutritional value and are high-calorie or high in carbohydrates. These foods can range from pizza to French fries to ice cream and more.

According to MedicineNet, 40 percent of people are prone to eat more when stressed. The other 60 percent either eats less or experiences no change in their intake of food when under stress.

Emotional eating can sometimes be confused with binge eating; the main differences lies in the amount of food that is consumed. Emotional eating involves eating moderate to extensive amounts of food. It can be a part of an emotional illness like depression or bulimia, according to MedicineNet.

Binge eating, on the other hand, is a result of a mental illness. It is categorized by recurring compulsive overeating episodes, according to MedicineNet. This occurs when someone cannot control the amount of food they eat, which is usually extensively larger than a normal amount most people eat in a given period of time.

Emotional eating can be caused by many factors, not usually just one cause. MedicineNet described one of the body’s responses to stress called “fight or flight.” This results in increased heart rate, breathing, and blood flow. Increased appetite can be another symptom because it is the body’s way of giving it fuel for the fight or flight that it is anticipating will happen.

People who are subjects to chronic stress are more likely to be victims of emotional eating, versus people who experience momentary stress from school or a job. Also, people who typically connects food with positive feelings or comfort rather than for sustenance are prone to emotional eating. They could be using food to fill an emotional hole they feel. And it can also be a result of how that person was raised around food.

According to MedicineNet, warning signs for emotional eating can vary. Feeling a sudden and urgent hunger, rather than the gradual physical need our bodies usually undergo, can be a warning sign. Commonly, emotional eaters crave junk food rather than healthy foods, which is why they can often feel shame after they have eaten.

Although emotional eating is connected with the overeating aspect, another reaction could be the lack of hunger. If someone feels stressed or depressed, they may lose their appetite altogether, even when their body tells them they are hungry.

Both responses to stress can be harmful to the body, especially if it is happening frequently and sporadically. If you or someone you know is experiencing these reactions, contact your doctor immediately.

7 Ways to Deal With Stress Instead of Eating

1. Take a walk outside.

2. Perform an exercise or some sort of physical activity.

3. Take a nice long bath.

4. Express yourself creatively by doing a DIY project or painting.

5. Try aromatherapy to relax.

6. Rub the pressure points around your body or get someone to massage you.

7. Surround yourself with friends and family.

4 Activities to Avoid When Emotional

1. Avoid more stressful situations. If they arise, remove yourself immediately.

2. Don’t drink. Not only can this be unhealthy, but it can also be an invitation to poor choices.

3. Don’t isolate yourself. This can make you feel even more emotional. Try to connect with friends or family.

4. Don’t mindlessly eat. Don’t allow yourself to snack on unhealthy foods to make yourself feel better.

Written by: Alex Dunn

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