What is Emotional Eating? Here’s All You Need to Know
Emotional eating is most commonly defined as “overeating to soothe negative emotions”.
Emotional eating is most commonly defined as “overeating to soothe negative emotions”.(Photo: iStockphoto)

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’?

Emotional eating is often indulged because food is seen as a solace or as a reward.
Emotional eating is often indulged because food is seen as a solace or as a reward.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

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.

Emotional eating is often indulged because food is seen as a solace or as a reward. People start to view a chocolate bar or a tub of ice-cream as an escape for their emotions.

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.

This happens primarily due to an inability to deal with one’s emotions and thoughts. Which is why a distraction is needed, and food serves to be a good and delicious one.

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.

Also Read : Has Your Child Lost Weight Suddenly? Five Signs of Eating Disorder

It Has Nothing To Do With Your Appetite

The focus is not on your hunger but on your emotions.
The focus is not on your hunger but on your emotions.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

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.

While occasionally satisfying our body’s cravings for junk food can be a good thing, this sort of indulgence often makes us feel guilty and ashamed.

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.)

(FIT is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Click here and hit the Send button.)

Follow our Mind It section for more stories.

    Also Watch