Have you ever eaten food other than for nourishment? I know I have, it use to be a common occurrence for me to eat a tub of ice cream or a few cream cakes just to satisfy an urge or simply to calm myself down.
This can be considered an eating disorder which is actually experienced by quite a lot of people. Eating due to emotions is the number one factor in gaining weight and keeping it on.
The majority of people manage to keep it in check by using distractions, exercising a lot, being very busy or having some self control between binge eating every now and then. There are very few people who manage to not snack, eat out of compulsion or some other reason other than for nourishment.
So why does eating food so intertwined with your emotions? And why is it such a big problem for some? How do you overcome overeating?
All your questions will be answered in the sections below so please read carefully.
Why You Eat Emotionally
Your brain response to hunger and food
Your emotions are strongly entwined your body and it’s no different when it comes to food. You may notice that when you’re feeling hungry you can get irritable, feel miserable and lack concentration. After eating you feel happy, satisfied and relieved.
This is completely natural and everyone experiences it (some more than others)
How, when and where we eat is generally “taught” to us during childhood, we eat meals with the family, at the dinner table, we get use to certain types of food and I’m sure you have a fond memories of favorite meal.
These situations are strongly impressed in your memory including the emotions that were experienced at the time. The emotions tend to be of happiness, joy and satisfaction – hence why food is such as huge factor in our emotional life.
Often people crave familiar foods because of the emotions that are attached to the memories of those food experiences.
Dealing with stresses in your life
You probably know that stress causes you to lose your appetite, but this is only temporary; prolonged or frequent stressful events will almost certainly increase your overall appetite.
I remember the last time I had to give a presentation and being a shy (and under-prepared) individual I was stressing from the previous evening. Upon waking there was no way I could stomach breakfast so I ended up just downing a mug of coffee. The buildup to the presentation was not a pleasurable experience but after the event I felt incredibly hunger – I pigged out on everything that was fatty and sugary (not a pretty sight).
The point is if you often experience stress then it’s likely that you want to snack more often and have bigger portions of it. It’s a natural response to stress which you experience physically and emotionally.
Eating naturally makes you feel better so it’s no surprise that depression often causes you to eat more, and particularly the most comforting foods – fatty, sugary and salty.
When you’re depressed you’re more likely to miss meals and eat randomly, and this is typically due to lack of motivation and drive.
You may know that depression generally causes you to lose interest in most things and your appetite, but what this does is make food a more emotional experience than it should be.
How to Beat Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is certainly a problem but there are techniques and methods you can employ to help break the pattern. In part 2 I’ll be going over these techniques in detail so that you can put them into practice.
- Identify your triggers
- Find a (constructive) distraction
- Break the cycle – beat the stress
- Formal methods
Until next time.