How often have you felt the urge to eat something, even if you are not hungry? Or May be you are upset and feel like eating something? If these are some instances that you have been experiencing quite often than it might be that you are a victim of emotional eating. Medically, it is said that occasional emotional eating may be considered normal, but if this urge to eat a certain type of food happens too often and you go on an eating spree to the level of discomfort, it can wreak havoc on your mental, emotional and physical health.
So, what exactly is emotional eating?
In simple terms, it can be explained that emotional eating is a sort of tendency, where the sufferer responds to stressful situations and difficult feelings like the feeling of anger and anxiety by eating something. This happens even when the sufferer has no physical hunger.
Emotional hunger or eating is usually for comfort foods – foods that are high-caloric or high-carb and have no or minimal nutrition value like ice creams, chips, chocolates, fries, pizzas and burgers.
There could be many reasons associated with emotional eaters, but clinically mental health professionals call it atypical depression, and those who do not have any clinically proven symptoms or mental health conditions, engage themselves in emotional eating due to chronic stress and momentary feelings – a reason contributing towards the cause of obesity.
Are you an emotional eater?
It does not matters, how weak you feel over food and your feelings to eat, emotional hunger cannot be satisfied with food. Eating at that moment might make you feel good, but the feelings that instigates you to eat still remains. It has been seen that, it makes one feels worse after eating as it rises guilt consciousness after consuming the extra and unnecessary calories.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine where you eat because of emotional surges:
- Do you tend to eat, even when you are not hungry or even when you are full?
- Do you resort to eating more when you are stressed out?
- Do you often eat to feel better to calm down when you are sad or bored or even in anxiety?
- Do you regularly eat till the level of over stuffing yourself?
- Do you get the feeling that food is your best friend, and you feel safe and comfortable?
- Do you like to reward yourself with food?
- Do you feel out of control and powerless when around food?
Occasionally using food to celebrate or reward with is not bad, but if food becomes the mode to coping up with emotions you are an emotional eater.
What are the factors that contributes for emotional eating?
Many of us feel that emotional eating is all because of the lack of self-control. But actually, it is rarely the reason. There are many causes that contributes to becoming an emotional eater, but stress has been one of the prime causes that has been linked with it. The following are some of the main reasons behind turning into an emotional eater:
- Cortisol overproduction
Cortisol, the stress hormone in our brain, gets affected with stress, Stress increases the levels of cortisol that can cause a series of problems in the body. Among all other things, it increases the craving for salty and sweeter foods and this can cause excessive weight gain.
- Food as a source of pleasure
We often see people feeling highly satisfied after eating, as if they have attained enlightenment after their meal. We ourselves also feel satisfies with a bowl of chips or ice cream after a long hectic day at work. Scientifically, eating sugar and fats releases opioids in our brains. Opioids are the active ingredient found in cocaine, heroin and other narcotics. Hence, the calming and satisfying effect that we feel after eating ice creams and chips are not unreal.
- The inability to handle difficult feelings
We all have been taught from a younger age to overcome and avoid situations that are difficult. In the process, many of us find different ways to get distracted from such feelings and situations and one such way is through eating. Without our ability to tolerate experiencing life’s inevitably difficult situations and feelings, we succumb to emotional eating.
- Hating your own body
It might sound strange, but is actually true. Hating our own body is one of the major factor contributing to emotional eating. Negativity, shame, and hatred can never inspire people to make long-lasting changes and especially when it comes to our bodies or our sense of self well being.
What are the effects of emotional eating?
Emotional eating has many effects on our overall health and lifestyle. Some of which are as discussed here:
- Weight-related health problems: high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, cardio vascular ailments, constant fatigue are only a few of the many problems that one could set into from the result of repetitive emotional eating outbursts.
- Guilt: when the strong urge is drowsed with food and the difficult situation is gone, emotional eaters face the remorse and guilt of what they have done. This feeling of guilt induces another emotional eating spree and the cycle continues.
- Nausea: as eating distracts the sufferer away from the feelings and emotions that they try to avoid, they tend to overeat and that too very quickly and experience stomach pain and nausea later. This can last for a day or two after the eating overdose.