What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating usually done in order to feel better and to relieve stress? Eating is not just equivalent to just fulfilling our hunger. It for some provides a sense of comfort, stress relief, a reward for oneself. People often turn to junk food, sweets and other food that usually satisfy taste buds but are very unhealthy in nature. We often end up having a pint of ice cream when we are sad, or a pizza when we are bored and take a drive-through after a very stressful day.
In this state, a person uses food to make oneself feel better or use food as a substitute to fill emotional needs. However, what we should be aware of is that emotional eating doesn’t really fix any emotional problems. It often leads to feelings of guilt after eating so much because we become aware that it might cause harm to our body as well as to gain excessive weight.
There are few questions that you can ask yourself if you think you are suffering from this condition?
Do you end up eating more when you go through stress?
Do you eat when you don’t feel hungry?
Do you eat to avoid negative emotions?
Do you try to reward yourself with food?
Do you continue to eat even when you feel full?
Does get a sense of safety when you eat
Do you feel that you do not have control over food intake?
The emotional eating cycle
When we use food as a pick me up or reward or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it gets problematic when eating becomes our final coping mechanism. When we are in a flight or a fight state we might just turn to eat. In order to avoid negative emotions like stress, upset, anger, loneliness, exhaustion and boredom. People often get stuck in this unhealthy cycle where they are not dealing with the real problem at all.
Emotional Hunger can’t be fulfilled with just-food. As the feelings that lead to eating are still there. People feel worse after so much intake of food as they feel guilty of consuming unnecessary calories they end up taking. Even though people feel a lack of control over their food, they still can make effective alternative forms of coping. In this way, a person can deal with unhealthy forms of coping and craving
Ways in which we can differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger
We first need to become aware of emotional hunger and physical hunger. When we become aware of the two, we get to know which one to fulfil and which urge to ignore.
Emotional Hunger often occurs abruptly.
A person feels instant urge or overwhelming feeling before they crave emotionally. Physical hunger is more gradual in nature. There is the absence of a dire need to eat.
Emotional hunger involves seeking comfort food.
When we are physically hungry we can also have healthy food but emotional needs will involve junk food intake.
Emotional intake will involve mindless eating habit
Mindless eating often involves eating without being aware of eating, we forget to savour our food if we are not eating for our physical hunger.
Emotional hunger continues even when we are full.
People keep eating more and more even when they are uncomfortable stuff. This will not happen in physical hunger.
Hunger is not only about the stomach
Emotional eating doesn’t just involve belly growing but it is most of the time about structure, taste or smell.
Guilt is mostly followed by emotional hunger.
When guilt follows, it is often because the individual is often aware that whatever he or she is eating is not nutritious.
Causes of emotional eating
Stress: Stress often makes us hungry. It is not just the role of the mind. Stress can turn chronic which would lead to chaos, fast-paced world, the body starts producing stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can lead to a craving for salty, sweet and fried foods that leads to a burst of energy and pleasure. The more the stress becomes uncontrollable, the more a person crave food to satisfy emotional relief.
Easing emotional: eating can ease uncomfortable emotions for a while for sure including anger, sadness, fear, resentment, shame and loneliness.
Boredom or void: if often turn to junk food to ease relief from boredom. Food can occupy one's mouth and time. It can distract oneself from purposelessness.
Childhood habits: it brings back the childhood memories of food intake like ice cream and sweets to relieve sadness and gets a sense of reward. These habits may repeat themselves in adulthood. Nostalgia causes relief.
Social Influences: even social gatherings involve getting together and eating. This might just lead to overeating.
In case you are feeling depressed and lonely: you can play with a dog/cat, visit old memories.
In case of anxiousness: exercise, squeezing a stress ball or a brisk walk will help.
To deal with exhaustion, a hot cup of tea and a warm bath will help.
To deal with boredom, reading a good book, comedy show outdoor activities and hanging out with friends can be great.
Pausing and waiting for a few minutes in the middle of a craving, identifying one's emotions can help you understand the cause.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions even the bad ones.
Savouring the food while eating will help you to mindful of what you are eating.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive and behavioural therapy principles can be applied where they can be effective for both inpatient and outpatient. Monitoring oneself is essential. They are required to count the intake of the food they take and identify the emotions that are related. They are taught to identify their automatic thoughts and to challenge their core belief. They also devise strategies to cope with their interpersonal problems.
Dynamic Psychotherapy: it is used to treat patients with eating problems. However, they often resist this treatment. It included patients to view their symptoms constituting the core of their specialness. This involves building a therapeutic alliance. They minimize and invalidate their problematic belief.
Brief counselling sessions with immediate family members is the extentof family therapy required. In one controlled family therapy study in London, anorecticpatients under the age of 18 benefited from a family therapy, whereas patients over the ageof 18 did worse in family therapy than with the control therapy. No controlled studies havebeen reported on the combination of individual and family therapy; however, in actualpractice, most clinicians provide individual therapy and some form of family counselling inmanaging patients with anorexia nervosa.