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Do you hear the kitchen calling your name at times of emotional turmoil? Does food seem to be your only companion at your hardships? Finding comfort in food is common, and it’s part of a practice called emotional eating. Negative emotions may direct to a feeling of emptiness or an emotional void. Food is reckoned to be a way to fill that void and create a false feeling of “fullness” or temporary wholeness. See, food too is playing with your emotions, just like fake friends do. 

Emotional eating is defined as using food to cope with negative emotions. This can manifest in different ways, such as binge eating, overeating, or restricting food intake. Emotional eaters may turn to food for comfort when they’re feeling stressed, anxious, or sad. They may also use food as a way to celebrate or reward themselves. People who emotionally eat or reach for food several times a week or more to suppress and soothe negative feelings may even feel guilt or shame after eating this way, leading to a cycle of excess eating and associated issues, like weight gain.

Role of mind in eating without actual hunger:

You could believe that when your stomach is empty, hunger sets in. It’s not really that easy. Why do we keep eating even after our bodies have enough energy to last us the day? Is it purely for fun?  Or just because you are bored? We contend that physiological hunger, the simple physical consumption of high-calorie meals at fast-food restaurants, or overeating when you are already full are not the causes of obesity. Instead, hunger has psychological roots, and despite having full stomachs, we frequently experience hunger.

Few of the psychological factors contributing to emotional eating are:

  • Psychologically, people who tend to connect food with comfort, power, positive feelings, or for any other reasons than providing fuel to their body can be prone to emotional eating. 
  • Stress can enhance the desire to eat in two different ways either directly or by inducing arousal.
  • However, when the hormones are at their peak and the mind is not able to take a call, the food eating without actual hunger starts and results in different eating disorders.
  • Some people whose emotions cause them to eat may have been raised to connect food with feelings instead of sustenance, particularly if food was scarce or often used a reward or punishment, or as a substitute for emotional intimacy. And this intimacy rewards you with obesity and diseases.

How do you differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger?

Have you ever felt like you were starving, but when you stopped to think about it, you realised? that you had just eaten? Or have you ever found yourself eating even when you’re not physically hungry? If so, you may be confusing emotional hunger with physical hunger.

It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two types of hunger because they require different solutions. Physical hunger is a normal, physical response to an empty stomach. It’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs nourishment. Emotional hunger, on the other hand, is not a physical need. It’s a response to check-internal triggers such as boredom, anxiety, or loneliness. Or you can say Emotional hunger is your one-sided love story with food, aww! Poor you.

So how can you tell the difference between emotional and physical hunger? There are a few key indicators. First, check-in with your body. Are you physically hungry? Do you feel an emptiness? in your stomach? Or are you just thinking about food because you’re bored or stressed? Another way to tell the difference is by looking at what you’re craving. If you’re physically hungry, you’ll crave any type of food. But if your hunger is emotional, you’ll crave specific comfort foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also, if you are feeling guilty after eating your food, it means you are emotional eating.

How can I stop emotional eating?

Don’t let food fool you, especially when society already considers you an emotional fool. Emotional eating is a common issue that many people face. But the good news is that there are things you can do to help stop emotional eating. Here are some tips:

1. Mindfulness Meditation

Transcendental Meditation 

Emotional eaters’ brains are stimulated by a surge in dopamine when they regularly utilise food to deal with their emotions. In the battle to end this cycle and reintroduce consciousness, mindfulness is a potent ally. A pinch of meditation and emotional hunger goes for vacation. 

2. Yoga and regular exercise

Yoga and regular exercise

You can improve your mindfulness and self-awareness by doing yoga. The release of happy hormones like dopamine helps in lowering the stress levels and thus as a result the emotional eating also lowers.  So dear food lovers, do Yoga every day to keep binge eating at bay.  

3. Including nutrient-rich food

Including nutrient-rich food

Foods that are slow to digest and absorb are better to consume. Slow carbs, as the name suggests, release energy slowly into the body. Fast carbs release energy at a much higher pace and get used quickly. A wide range of fruits and vegetables, some grains, the majority of legumes are all examples of slow-burning carbohydrates that are higher in fiber, protein, and/or fat.

4. Journal of triggers

Journal of triggers

You might be able to find the triggers that cause emotional eating by keeping a journal of what you eat and when. After 20 days, you’ll see that things start to get better and that you have more control over your eating habits. And one day this journal will become a testament of your moving on from a toxic relationship with food. (And suddenly the motivational speaker in me has awaken)  

5. Remove problematic items from your pantry.

Foods that you frequently seek for in times of conflict that are in your cabinets might be trashed or donated. Think about foods high in fat, sugar, or calories, such as chips, chocolate, and ice cream. Additionally, avoid going to the grocery store when you’re irritated. They say avoiding the sight of your lover helps in recovering from a heartbreak, in your failed love story with food, this might help. 

6. Be mindful of volume.

Be mindful of volume

Refrain from grabbing a whole bag of chips or other snacks. To help with portion control, mindful eaters should work on acquiring the habits of measuring out servings and using small plates.

7. Seek support

When you are feeling depressed or anxious, seek out support. Your attitude might be greatly improved by making even a brief phone call to a friend or family member. Formal support groups are another resource. So instead of finding escape in food, just ping your best buddies, they might not solve your problems but their funny solutions can lift your mood.

The takeaway:

If you think you might be an emotional eater, there are a few things you can do to change your relationship more healthily to become aware of your triggers – what situations or emotions lead you to eat emotionally? Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can start to work on managing them more healthily. This might involve finding a different coping mechanism for your negative emotions – talking to a friend, doing yoga, meditating, or reading a book are all good options. Just treat your emotional eating habit as a nasty ex and soon you will get over it. So, this was a complete guide to understanding and extinguishing your temptation for eating emotionally.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/ss/slideshow-stop-emotional-eating

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