Emotional Overeating

Anytime you put food into your mouth when you are not hungry is called emotional eating. Rather than hunger fueling your desire to eat something, an emotion is driving you to binge on something you do not really want. Emotional eating is not something people only do when they are feeling down (think the newly single girl on television who indulges in a gallon of her favorite ice cream to feel better about her break up). It is something you do when an emotion drives you. That emotion could be sadness, such as when you are hurt by a loved one or lose your job. That emotion could also be simple boredom; the house is clean, the kids are in bed and you are wandering around trying to find something to do when you decide that eating cookies is the right choice. Emotional eating can lead to weight gain, depression and feelings of guilt, which is why you need to know the difference between being hungry and being emotional in the kitchen.

 

 Knowing the Difference

 

There are a number of ways to differentiate between emotional eating and actual hunger. By being in tune with your body, you will easily be able to tell the difference. The first difference between emotional eating and hunger is that hunger occurs gradually. You typically begin to feel hungry over time, becoming hungrier as time passes, whereas emotional eating is something that happens suddenly. Additionally, when you are truly hungry you are open to eating anything. When you are eating emotionally you crave something specific, because it is the only food that will satisfy that craving.

 

When you are hungry you don’t feel as if though you have to eat immediately. When you are eating because of an emotion you want to eat immediately. Finally, when you eat for emotional reasons instead of hunger, you often feel guilty afterward.

 

 Stop Emotional Eating

 

By recognizing when you are making a food decision based off of an emotion rather than hunger, you can avoid emotional eating and the subsequent feelings of guilt that come with it. The first thing you need to do when an emotional eating feeling strikes is to distract yourself. When you are craving a food because of an emotion, you are attempting to either remove or create a feeling in yourself that you are currently missing. Instead of feeding your emotions, find a healthier alternative. The next time you feel the need to eat emotionally, take a walk. Exercise helps to increase your mood and boost your level of happiness. By replacing emotional eating with exercise, you are making yourself healthier and happier.

 

You can also try making a list of things that always make you feel good. The next time you feel the need to eat something because of your emotions, refer to this list and try something on it instead. Keeping a food journal is another way to help you stop overeating due to emotional eating. This allows you to keep a tangible record of when you tend to feel the most emotional and are most likely going to overeat for the wrong reasons. By establishing this pattern, you will be able to help yourself to avoid emotional eating and maybe even figure out what the cause of your emotional eating is.

 

There is nothing wrong with indulging in something sweet from time to time. The key is not to go overboard and spend your time eating for emotions rather than hunger. Feeding your emotions has a very negative effect on your overall health, which is far more difficult to improve than your mood.

 

Richard Hasson. Finished psychology at Washington university, currently working for Long Island divorce attorneys as an consultant for people who are going through tough divorce. He also likes to write about self-help for depression and life in general.