3 Common Causes of Emotional Eating and How to Overcome Them
Emotional eating is a very real problem in the world today. If not addressed in the early stages, it can lead to much more serious eating disorders such as binge-eating disorder or night-eating syndrome. In most cases one might need professional help to overcome these disorders.
However, emotional eating is still manageable because we can nip this problem in the bud before it grows roots and takes over your life.
This article will show you three common triggers which cause this problem to rear its ugly head and what you can do to eliminate them.
It’s imperative that you not be sluggish in your approach or assume that the problem will go away on its own. Most people do not even realise that they are emotional eaters because the problem doesn’t have visible consequences until much later, and that’s what makes it so insidious.
Lack Of Control
A lack of control over your diet not only affects you mentally but physically too. Millions of Brits and people all over the world suffer from emotional overeating.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Type 2 diabetes statistics have skyrocketed. More people than ever are suffering from health issues such as high cholesterol, blood pressure problems, inflammation and many other issues that are caused by our poor diet choices these days.
There is no denying the fact that the Standard American Diet appropriately abbreviated as SAD is high in calories, preservatives and additives but low in nutrition. The high fructose corn syrup that’s present in so many foods has made people addicted to food. It all tastes so good and people can’t get enough of it.
Now more than ever, one needs to be aware of what he or she is eating. Food MUST be treated as fuel and not therapy.
People have forgotten that one should eat to fill their stomach and not their heart. This is the leading cause of emotional eating. People eat when they’re not hungry. Herein lies the problem. So let’s see why this happens…
Boredom is one of the major causes of emotional eating. Sitting in front of the TV for hours watching mindless reality shows while chomping down on crisps, biscuits and cakes has become the norm for so many folks.
There is a distinct void in their life. A certain sense of emptiness that they try to fill up with food. They eat because of the temporary ‘high’ that the food gives them, but these elevated feelings drop fast and they eat again and again and again just to feel happy and reach some level of satiation.
It’s very sad if you stopped to think about it but it’s the hard truth. The best way to overcome this cause will be to change your life around. You’ll need to find new and exciting things to do. It’s the monotony that’s killing you.
It could be a new hobby like photography, gardening, lifting weights, walking or something that makes you feel happy. It will take tremendous effort to push past the inertia and actually do something different in your life. Yet once you start and get the ball rolling, momentum will take over and you’ll feel much happier and fulfilled.
You will slowly become less dependent on food to make you happy because your life has some sense of purpose. Eradicate the monotony and boredom in your life and your emotional eating will be mitigated.
Stress is the leading cause of most health problems in the world today. No matter how you look at it, a stressful lifestyle either directly or indirectly affects your health.
We live in a pressure cooker society these days and this has only been more amplified due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and the subsequent devastation on global societies.
Everybody wants everything fast. Microwaves, instant text messaging, miracle diet pills and so many other contraptions just to get immediate results and gratification.
People also expect financial success, relationships made in heaven without any work, and a body of a Greek God in 2 weeks.
All these expectations of speed and efficiency creates a very hectic lifestyle that moves along at breakneck speed.
Most people think that they can handle all this, but what they don’t realise is that even if you get ahead in the rat race, you’re still a rat. A stressed out rat that eats whatever it can find.
All levity aside, the truth is that when you lead a stressful life, you’ll feel emotionally drained and empty. You’ll just be a cog in the machine that keeps spinning or pumping away but your life seems to have lost meaning.
It gets worse when dreams take a long time to become a reality. It takes time to get a body that turns heads. It takes time to build a business that makes you financially independent, and it takes a lifetime of work to keep a relationship or marriage healthy.
Millions of people currently suffer from depression, sadness and many other negative emotions because of this. They want fast results and they want them now. How do they cope when life doesn’t move at their pace? They fret, curse and stress themselves out.
Turning To Food
Men may turn to alcohol, sex or food. Women usually turn to food. Eating has become a mechanism for them to manage the stress.
If you eat when you’re not hungry, it’s emotional eating. If you’re already full but you’re still reaching for the chocolate, it’s emotional eating.
If you’re constantly going to the fridge or you aimlessly walk around the supermarket dumping junk food in your trolley to eat at home later, you are an emotional eater.
While it’s perfectly fine to indulge in the occasional dessert or a glass of wine, emotional eaters do this daily and they do it all the time. Their lives revolve around food and they eat mindlessly. There is a total lack of awareness. This is a sign of emotional overeating.
If you’re just following the motions and you don’t even realise just how much food is going into your mouth, you’re overeating. You’re either stressed out or compensating for some other feelings.
The first step to overcoming this cause is awareness. You must always stop yourself before you eat and ask, “Am I hungry?”
If the answer is no, dump the food. You do not need it. Now you need to examine your life. You’ll have to be brutally honest in your self-reflection. Are you unhappy with your job? Or are you in a marriage that has lost its sparkle? Maybe you’re unemployed and feel worthless?
Whatever the case may be, there will be underlying causes. You need to address these ASAP. If your job is stressing you out, you’ll need to take steps to relieve the stress with techniques such as meditation or sports, or something that works for you. Food is NOT the answer.
Sleep Not Eat
If you’re exhausted after a day’s work, go to bed early and wake up refreshed. Don’t vegetate in front of the TV and gobble up whatever you find. The sleep will work wonders but the food will make you wonder why nothing works in your life.
Depression caused by stress can often be relieved by talking to someone, or you could see a doctor and maybe medication (a last resort) might help you feel better. There’s no shame here and in fact medication to treat depression is much less harmful than gorging on food constantly to feel better.
3. Old habits
Old habits die hard. That definitely applies here. If you grew up in a household where your family was eating all the time without giving much thought to what was being eaten, chances are that you will be doing the same.
You might be an extrovert who hangs out with friends all the time and if you’re not drinking like a fish, you’re eating junk food such as pizzas and greasy burgers.
Over time, you get addicted to these foods and constantly get cravings for them. You indulge at every given chance and eat them even if you’re not hungry. The food makes you feel happy and good. This is emotional eating no matter how you look at it.
You can only overcome this by being mindful and slowly taking steps to break this habit. You may need to stop hanging out with friends for a while because the situations you are in just make it too tempting to resist the food and drinks.
Try out new healthier activities to take up the slack. You don’t want boredom to set in and if you’ve been following this article, you should know why.
Start with a food journal and see just how much you’re eating. Then, slowly try and cut down your food consumption in stages. Try not to go cold turkey all at once.
This will just make it more stressful and you might find yourself binge eating at night. This also applies to people who keep trying out aggressive diets to lose weight. In most cases they don’t work.
You’ll find it a struggle to maintain the diet and you’re bound to slip up now and then. When you do, you’ll binge eat whatever you’ve been depriving yourself of. You’ll then feel guilty and end up throwing the diet aside and getting back to your old eating habits.
The key to succeeding with weight loss is to approach it in a slow and controlled manner that is progressive in nature.
By just cutting calories slowly, you’ll see yourself steadily losing weight and you won`t have to deal with binging and other eating issues. That’s the best way to go about it.
Discerning Between Real Hunger And Emotional Hunger
Most causes of emotional eating will fall under one of the 3 categories above. There may be some that don’t, but no matter what, the best way to treat emotional eating is to be mindful of your eating. Like the saying goes, “Eat to live and not live to eat.”
You must be able to tell when you’re actually hungry. Real hunger usually makes your stomach growl. If you find yourself reaching for food when you’re not hungry, you’ll need to ask yourself why you’re doing it.
Are you bored? Is this a habit or mechanism to self-soothe? Will eating the food really make you feel better?
Break The Habit
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to stop and go do something else instead of eating. You must actively break the habit. You need to learn how to comfort yourself without comfort foods.
When you go grocery shopping, do NOT purchase foods that you know you should not be eating. Biscuits, ice cream, cakes, chips and all the other pleasure foods should be avoided. You do not want these foods lying around the house constantly calling out your name and tempting you.
You could buy a small packet of biscuits or a small tub of ice cream just to make it easier on yourself, but just one item. So, if you do give in to temptation and raid the fridge, you only have this one item that you’ll feel like eating. The damage won’t be that bad.
If it’s not in the refrigerator, you’ll not eat it and probably go and do something else like read or sleep. It may seem extreme to do this but this is a problem that requires extreme measures.
On The Right Track
After just two weeks of mindful eating, you’ll notice that your weight is dropping and you’re more aware of what you eat. You’ll be more in tune with how you feel and realise that you’ve been medicating with food.
From here on, things will get better. You’ll stop rewarding yourself with food like you’re a pet. Instead, food will be for fuel and sustenance and you’ll make better eating choices.
You’ll start looking and feeling better. Always remember that whatever your problem may be, the answer is NOT in the fridge.
As long you keep that in mind and act accordingly, you will overcome emotional eating.