Emotional Eating Is Real, But You Can Learn To Avoid It

by Shelley Davidescu

You celebrate your big win this month by going out to dinner and ordering the best champagne or cake.

“I’ve been good, so I deserve it,” you say, and then you proceed to order a double side of fries.

Unfortunately, numbing your emotions with food hurts your body and your self-esteem, but most importantly, it robs you of the experience.

Before your overeating gets out of control, you need to manage and cope with these underlying emotions that come up throughout your life.

As Barbara Stanny has said:

You must let go of where you are to get where you want to go.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is when you eat because you feel stressed, bored, depressed, nervous or anxious.

When you rely solely on food to help manage your emotions, you rob yourself of the experience necessary to develop emotional strength.

Every time you feel stressed, you have the opportunity to build your emotional muscles by changing your perspective, asking for support or developing another way to take care of yourself.

When life gets stressful, your body increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol. This can make you crave processed carbs, junk foods and sweet stuff.

The more you have it, the more you crave it, right? It becomes a never-ending cycle you know all too well.

When you choose to cope with difficult emotions through the use of food, you are no longer using your emotional muscles, which is like walking yourself right out of the gym.

By taking yourself out of the "gym," you learn to rely on food, and that becomes the mechanism through which you learn to feel good.

Junk food and processed carbs change your body’s state by increasing the serotonin and dopamine levels in your blood (the "feel good" neurotransmitters), and you feel great.

But, this only leaves you out of control and focused on the next sugary or salty fix.

Emotional eating can often feel out of control because of the chemical reaction in your brain.

Dopamine is created by certain pleasure foods that contain fat, sugar and salt.

Meanwhile, your underlying beliefs about how food may ease your pain and help to soothe you further support this ugly habit.

But, there is a way out of this madness that will give you back the control.

What contributes to emotional eating?

1. Unawareness: Not being aware of your body sensations such as hunger, thirst and fatigue can result in overeating.

2. Unmet desires: Work can be very demanding at times, which can leave little time for you to take total care of yourself.

3. Not dealing with your feelings: Eating can mask a difficult emotion because of the physiological effect that happens in your body when you eat sugar or carbs.

4. Physiology: Being chronically tired can lead to overeating.

What reduces or eliminates emotional eating?

1. Allow yourself to feel the emotions.

2. Get support to manage the emotion, and develop effective coping tools.

3. Integrate other pleasurable activities in your life.

4. Address your troubled relationships.

5. Learn to feel the difference between hunger and craving food.

6. Understand your triggers. If you know you eat when you feel sad or lonely, develop a strategy to cope with this ahead of time.

One of the very best things you can do is practice feeling your emotions in a safe space with people who support you.

Emotional eating can be a difficult habit to break because, after all, we need food to survive.

But, it can be done with the right awareness, focus and support.