What is Emotional Eating? Here’s All You Need to Know
Do you ever find yourself mindlessly reaching for snacks or maybe some chocolate when you’re not even hungry? You know you’re not hungry and can definitely do without the extra calories, but you’ll still be eating. Is this lack of control? Many times it can be – but it can also be what is known as “Emotional Eating”.
Emotional eating is most commonly defined as “overeating to soothe negative emotions”. Hence we can say it is essentially a maladaptive coping strategy to suppress negative or anxious thoughts and emotions which can include anger, fear, stress and even boredom.
Emotional distress in career relationships, family or health might lead to impulsive and binge eating which eventually gives rise to a vicious cycle of overeating, weight gain and then ultimately feeling terrible about one’s body.
Why Do We Indulge in ‘Emotional Eating’?
While discipline can be implemented and maintained, emotional eating is a little more difficult to get under control.
One of the main reasons for that is it often begins unconsciously. It could be that you’re actually full with your meal, but you’ll still pick on the remains of your plate, or maybe you’ll finish the whole popcorn while watching the movie not even consciously aware of how much you’re eating. In fact recently a friend complained of getting into a habit of even eating peanuts – something she actively dislikes just because it’s in front of her.
Foods high in sugar and fat, do have temporary soothing effects according to research. Hence the ‘high’ of feeling good can make consuming such foods into a habit which can be tough to break.
Unfortunately this avoidance technique doesn’t have good implications for our health. Ironically, one also tends to emotional eat when one is feeling particularly disgusted by their body. Because they don’t want to face what they’re feeling – or don’t want to take the action required to not feel a particular way you seek comfort in the form of food. Succinctly put, it’s an avoidance technique albeit a malfunctioning one.
It Has Nothing To Do With Your Appetite
The thing to remember about emotional eating is that it actually has nothing to do with your appetite. It’s not hunger which propels one into eating in this case, but severe cravings of food which would temporary make you feel good because of the release of sugar in our bodies. That’s the reason it leads to mindless eating, cause you’re not eating to satisfy your stomach hence it can be difficult to tell how much is enough.
The focus is not on your hunger but on your emotions.
It can sabotage your efforts to get healthy and can in fact even make you feel emotionally unhealthy. Although, we can all be prone to it the good news it that there are triggers you can recognize and things you can do to control it.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)