As humans, we experience various emotions. They are a natural reaction to the events happening in our lives, and everyone finds ways to deal with these feelings and get comfort. One of the ways people cope with emotions is by “eating their feelings.” Eating your feelings is just another term to describe emotional eating. It refers to when you eat, not necessarily because you are hungry, but as a way to cope with your feelings.
Since we experience many types of emotion, there are different kinds of emotional eating that one could be struggling with. Here are a few of the most common types of emotional eating you might be experiencing and how you can overcome them forever.
Types of emotional eating
- Sad eating – When things get difficult, and you need to brighten your mood, your answer is food. You could be doing it to deal with the many disappointments we experience in life, such as rejection, death, breakups, or loneliness.
- Angry eating – You eat when you are irritated at yourself, others, or even at situations. People deal with anger in different ways. It could be that you rage silently, fight, or verbally abuse the cause of this feeling, but for you, eating helps suppress this negative emotion.
- Stress eating – Food is your solution when you feel under a lot of pressure. For instance, you probably eat before having a difficult conversation or presentation; when there is uncertainty; when anxious; or when you have too many responsibilities.
- Social eating – Eating because a friend or family member made you feel pressured to do it. Doing otherwise would mean feeling left out, or it would seem rude not to eat. It could be during a night out, date, or during a party.
- Comfort eating – You use food as a way to soothe yourself. You could turn to your comfort foods when feeling anxious, PMSing, feeling unfulfilled, or when sick.
- Boredom eating – It is when you eat because you have nothing else to keep you stimulated or occupied. Apart from binge-watching and scrolling through social media feeds, food is the only thing on your mind.
Difference between emotional hunger and Physical Hunger
So, how do you know when you are experiencing physical and not emotional hunger?
- With emotional hunger, the urge to eat is sudden and feels urgent, but with physical, you can wait, unless you have not eaten in a while.
- When experiencing physical hunger, you would probably eat any foods, but with emotional, you crave specific foods, mostly junk food, which is unhealthy.
- Physical hunger comes from the stomach (you might even hear it growling), while the emotional one will often start from your head. You feel it when you think about particular foods.
- When you are experiencing emotional hunger, you do not know when to stop. You might end up eating a whole jar of ice-cream mindlessly. On the other hand, physical hunger stops when your stomach is full.
- When you satisfy a craving by emotional eating, you will often feel guilty afterward. This is because you eat to feed your feelings, as opposed to physical hunger where you eat to satisfy your body’s need for nutrients.
Look out for these signs of physical hunger to identify and overcome emotional eating forever. These include having your stomach growling, feelings of weakness and lightheadedness, and feeling shaky because your sugar levels are low.
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Why emotional eating is not good for you
Food is one of the basic needs for all living things. And as such we should take pleasure in eating it. However, eating in response to your emotions can be harmful to you. You might get a positive feeling while eating to forget your problems, but this is not a long-term solution. Here are a few reasons why eating your feelings will not help you in the long run.
- You have not solved anything because the original reason you ate will still be there when you are done. Furthermore, you might add to your problems by feeling guilty for indulging, especially if you have been trying to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- You become dependent on food to soothe your emotions.
- You get stuck in a loop and end up not addressing the real issue. The problem occurs> you eat to soothe yourself> you feel guilty> the problem recurs or does not go away, and you are back where you started.
- The solace is an illusion. Food is not supposed to feed your emotions, and thus, you are not solving anything by eating it when you are not feeling physical hunger.
- You now have to deal with the implications of overeating or eating unhealthy foods, such as weight gain and poor health.
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How to stop emotional eating forever
If you are currently dealing with emotional eating, you are not alone. Many of us struggle with eating to cope with emotion. When your emotions trigger the urge to eat, here are some tips to help you gain control of your eating habits and stop emotional eating forever.
- Identify your triggers
At first, you might not realize that the reason you feel like eating is tied to your emotions. However, as the cycle of emotional eating progresses you might notice a pattern. Depending on the type of emotional eater you are, the triggers will vary. You have to identify what situations or feelings make you want to head to the kitchen or fridge for a snack.
- Start a food diary
Get a notebook or phone apps to document and track what you eat (everything from snacks to meals), when you eat it, and how you feel while eating. This will help you identify what triggers your emotional eating habit and stop it.
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- Take 5
If you are unsure whether what you are feeling is physical or emotional hunger, resist the urge to eat for at least 5 minutes to see whether it persists. If you just ate and feel like eating again, this is probably emotional hunger, and by identifying it, you could wait for it to pass and overcome emotional eating urges.
- Avoid the temptation
Remove any tempting foods from your house because you will not resist them when you are emotionally weak. It will require you to make an effort to go to the grocery store to buy them, and by then, your cravings could have passed, or you will have changed your decision. If you must have snacks in the house, ensure they are healthy.
- Use a different coping strategy
Diets often fail when trying to stop emotional eating. Logically, you know that sticking to the diet will help you. As an emotional eater, you might not be logical when triggered, and sticking to your diet might not be an option. Hence, you have to find other ways to cope with your emotional triggers. For instance, you could try dancing, listening to your favorite music, taking a walk, talking to a friend, squeezing a stress ball, or reading a book to take your mind off your situation for a while.
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- Learn to accept your feelings
Despite your best efforts, you might still fall into the trap of emotional eating. Wallowing in guilt for giving in to the cravings will not be helpful to you. Learn to forgive yourself and devise ways to prevent it from happening next time.
- Build a support system
Have a strong support network of friends and family members who you can turn to during hard times. Spend time with the people who elicit positive feelings in you. Other than people close to you, seek professional help by consulting a counselor to help you explore your feelings and how to stop emotional eating forever.
Many people struggle with emotional eating at some point in life. However, eating to feed your feelings will only give you comfort for right now but will be detrimental for you in the long term. Utilize the above tips to create a healthy relationship with food and escape the emotional eating loop.
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