We go out to eat to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, promotion, etc. Or we entertain around dinner parties and holidays. At church functions, there are socials and potluck meals. You name it and somehow it all revolves around food. Food is an important and essential part of our life. Without food we would not be able to perform our daily activities. Our muscles would wither, our nervous system would fail. We all need food. But how much do we need to eat? What prompts us to eat – hunger or emotions or both? Do you see food as more than just a source of energy and enjoying it simply for the satisfaction?
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL EATING?
Science shows that food can promote good feelings by chemical reactions caused in our brains. This becomes a problem when an individual cannot experience pain, anxiety, joy or even boredom without turning to food as means of dealing with those feelings, or they are obsessed with food, weight and dieting.
Emotional eaters turn to food as a source of distraction from dealing with feelings. However, eating these foods leads to feelings of guilt which can only be soothed with more eating, restrictive dieting, excessive exercise or purging.
Emotional eaters tend to value themselves based on their weight and how closely they’ve stuck to their ‘ideal’ diet. Because of this distorted relationship with food, foods are labeled “GOOD” and “BAD”. Emotional eating can lead to serious eating disorders and depression.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M AN EMOTIONAL EATER?
Do you turn to food for reasons other than hunger? Are you obsessed with thoughts of food – whether you plan to eat it or are concentrating on restricting yourself from eating it?
Do you regularly try diets and fail – leading to guilt and further over eating? Do you think about or attempt to purge excess food by throwing up or using laxatives? Do you exercise compulsively when you think you’ve eaten too much?
If you answer yes to those questions, then you may be an emotional eater.
HOW DO I OVERCOME EMOTIONAL EATING?
Since emotional eating is caused by looking to food as a coping strategy for emotional distress dieting can actually create more problems. When the emotional eater fails to stick to a diet they suffer feelings of guilt that can only be soothed with more food and in turn, more guilt or punishment.
Instead of trying to focus on what they are eating, the emotional eater needs to learn new skills for coping with stressful emotions. Often this requires the help of a professional who deals with emotional eating and who can guide you towards controlling stressful thought and teach you coping mechanisms. It is only by finding replacements for the comfort food provided that the individual can put food into its rightful place and learn healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.