Emotional eating entails eating in response to positive and/or negative emotional you are experiencing. Your relationship with food can become influenced by your mood. In general, we associate emotional eating with negative feelings as a type of coping mechanism, but you can also eat in response to positive feelings such as celebratory or feeling deserving of a reward.

Food enhances the current mood. You aren’t eating for your body, you’re eating for your emotions. You actually become attached to food in a different way than you would air or water which are things you need. You personify food for far more than what it is.

There are a number of signs that might indicate you are emotionally eating:

  • Your Eating Is Out Of Control – This is similar to binge eating. You eat when you aren’t hungry and/or continue to eat even when you are full. You go out of your way to get food.
  • You Eat In Response To Your Feelings – This can even be subconsciously. When demands in your life are high or you are staying up really late, you tend to eat more. You might feel lonely, empty, depressed, angry, or even bored.
  • When You Eat, You Feel Happy – Eating almost becomes necessary for you to feel good about life in that moment.
  • You Seek Out Solace In Food – It is comforting. You look to food for an answer to what you are feeling. It’s a type of solution to your problem.
  • You Hardly Ever Feel Full And If You Do, You Continue To Eat Anyways – You aren’t satisfied with food in any amount, you desire more. If you do eat, you then think about eating again after or later.
  • You Might Avoid Eating With Others – You actually want to feel the relief from food on your own. You also don’t want to be seen because you might eat a lot or eat really fast or make noises as you feel soothed by the food.
  • You Self-Image Is Distorted – What you see in the mirror can be a reflection of you eating habits and your unhealthy relationship with food either may be causing you to gain weight.

Typically, a person isn’t eating healthy when they decide to emotionally eat. That’s where the term “comfort food” comes into play which is junk food, sweets, or high fat foods.

Emotionally Eating

For example, someone might eat a pint or ice cream or an entire box of pizza to make them feel better. However, food doesn’t solve the actual problem itself. When eating becomes your primary coping mechanism for control of emotions, there is a problem.

You impulsively eat believing it helps make the problem go away or food heightens a happy feeling. It can be a cycle where something happens to you, then you impulsively eat, then you know you are eating more than you should, but the urge is strong, finishing with feeling guilty about what you’ve just done.

Of course, you still feel normal hunger sings. However, emotional hunger is tied to the sudden urge to eat, craving very specific foods, not feeling satisfied no matter how much you eat, and feeling shame or guilty when finished eating.

Tips to Help Stop Emotional Eating

There are some general options to try to help with emotional eating, and if the symptoms and habit persists, seeking medical professional help is advisable.

1. Identify Triggers

Ask yourself what is causing you to seek comfort in food. Why are you stuffing your emotions with food? It could be stress or feeling empty or bored. Childhood memories can also come into play. Maybe food was a reward your parents used. If you got good grades you got to get ice cream, so now you think of food as a celebratory occasion. Maybe when you were feeling upset, your parents took you for ice cream to cheer you up. Again, you seek food to find this betterment. Social influences might also cause you to emotionally eat. You might overeat in social situations because you are nervous or you like to be the life of the party.

2. Find Other Options

Turn to other alternatives instead of food when triggers arise. If you feel anxious, you could go for a walk, exercise, dance, or turn music on. If you feel lonely or depressed, you can start by calling someone. You could spend time with a pet or look at pictures. If you are exhausted and overwhelmed from stress, light some candles, sit under a blanket, have a hot tea, or take a bath. If you are bored, try going outdoors, taking up a new hobby like playing an instrument, or trying new sport.

Check in with yourself

3. Pause And Check In With Yourself

When the urge or craving hits, pause and take a few deep breathes. Wait for five minutes to try to make the feelings pass. Check in with yourself to identify why you are feeling this way and think of better ideas to give attention to the emotion.

4. Accept Your Feelings

We sometimes will feel uncomfortable and that is normal. The feelings do subside. You don’ have to be powerless to your emotions. Tell yourself that you are capable of dealing and controlling your emotions.

5. Savor Your Food

Instead of eating so fast, enjoy the food. Taste it, Chew slowly. Drink after a couple bites. You will actually appreciate the food more. You will notice when you feel full. Enjoy the experience of eating.

6. Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Exercise daily and make sure to get enough sleep. You can also connect with others and find support. Spending time with others can protect you from a bad relationship with food.

Emotional eating can start even during very young ages and continue into adulthood. Many people are in denial about this unhealthy relationship with food, often times because they don’t know what a healthy relationship with food is.

Sometimes when a person gets older and eats around other adults who have portion control and maybe a healthy body weight, do they consider they might have a problem. Eating in excess can be tied to cultures too.

Then when you see others eating from other places, you see that maybe you eat more than you should. Not taking care of the problem you discover can lead to poor body image and not being able to have a healthy body weight.

Being truthful with yourself and the way you eat, especially in private is so important. Otherwise, you many need the help of a nutritionist, dietitian, or even behavioral health doctors. You have to be okay with who you are, and food won’t change that. Take control of what you can control, and that includes your eating habits.