How To Overcome 3 Causes of Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is a very real problem in the world today. I know because I struggle with this issue myself.
However, if you are not careful, emotional eating can lead to a list of health related problems. Eating disorders such as:
- binge-eating disorder
- night-eating syndrome
- high cholesterol
- blood pressure problems
- inflammation issues
- and more
If you don’t take control over your food eating habits, it will take control of you. In that case, you will need professional help to overcome these disorders. So, let’s discuss how you can be EMPOWERED towards a HOPE and a FUTURE and regain control over how you eat.
Understand The Triggers
Emotional eating, although manageable, can be a struggle because our relationship with food is deeply personal. Perhaps your weakness is sweets such as cookies, cakes and more. Or you crave salty snacks such as chips, french fries, nachos, or even popcorn. We are all prone to a weakness with our food. Mine, I’ll admit is the sweets. I will devour salty foods too. The problem can easily become a full blown addiction if not properly dealt with.
However, emotional eating can be nipped in the bud before the roots grow too strong and takes over your life.
There are 3 common triggers which can lead to this problem of emotional eating.
- Old Habits
We will examine each of these triggers in more detail. As you identify which one is your most prominent trigger, you are then EMPOWERED to fight back.
Keep in mind that sugar is in practically everything we eat and is highly addictive. This makes tackling your emotional eating problems more of a challenge because it can be just that—an addiction. An addiction that can be as strong as anyone battling drug and alcohol abuse.
More than ever, you need to be aware of what you are eating. Make it a conscious effort. Food must be treated as fuel for your body, not a fix for your emotional or mental issues.
You must retrain yourself to eat only when hungry.
Boredom is one of the causes of emotional eating. Sitting in front of the TV for hours watching reality shows while chomping down on chips, cookies and cakes has become the norm for so many of these days.
It becomes just a “mindless” form of munching. Do you find yourself doing this?
You just can’t stop with one chip or one cookie. Before you know it, you’ve emptied the whole bag. You often are not even aware of just how much you are eating. Do you sit in a particular chair and just instinctively pick up the bag of goodies?
Tackling the emotional eating triggered by boredom requires you to change your habits. Take up a new hobby and do something that will keep your mind occupied and challenged. Doing new things will also bring you fulfillment that you have been seeking from eating the food.
There are many new things you could try. How about:
- gardening—grow your own vegetables to munch on
- rock climbing
- or anything else that you’ve always wanted to do, or learn to do
Before you know it, you will be so busy doing your new hobby or skill, that you won’t have time to reach for a bag of goodies out of mindless boredom.
You’ll become less dependent on food to make you happy because your life has other purpose. Get rid of the same old routines and change things up. Your health, weight, and eating habits will thank you.
Stress is a very leading cause of many health problems worldwide. A stressful life will directly or indirectly affect your health whether you are aware of it or not. Financial stress hurts your health for sure.
Life is hard and has so many demands. Whether you are a parent or just an overworked employee. Everybody wants everything so fast. It seems like everyone wants a piece of you whether it is your time, attention, or your limited money.
I’ve heard it said “how can we teach patience when we live in a fast paced world”. From microwaves, to instant text messaging, we are always having demands made on us and our time. You may be having the stress of expecting financial success, relationships made in heaven, and all without any work. All of these demands and expectations combined with a very hectic lifestyle that seems to move along at breakneck speed can leave you agitated and overwhelmed.
One way to deal with that stress is to eat. Similar to the boredom eating, this is even a more nervous impulse of hand to mouth reactions. Eating, even if only temporary, makes you feel less stressed. But afterwards you may feel guilty. This guilt just adds itself to the stresses you are already experiencing.
And the vicious cycle continues.
You feel drained inside. It gets worse when you feel like your dreams and goals may never become a reality for you. The price of time that is needed to become financially independent, or to keep relationships strong may seem too high to pay. So, you eat.
3. Old habits
Old habits die hard. That definitely applies here. If you grew up in a household where your family was eating all the time without giving much thought to what was being eaten, chances are that you do the same. It is a learned behavior.
Or you love to hang out with friends and often find yourself eating junk food such as pizzas, burgers and fries. Over time, you are addicted to these foods and constantly craving these very things. You indulge at every given chance and eat them even if you’re not hungry.
It becomes a taste need, not a hunger need. The food makes you feel happy and good. This is emotional eating no matter how you look at it.
You can only overcome this by being mindful and slowly taking steps to break this habit. You may need to stop hanging out with friends for a while because the situations you are in just make it too tempting to resist the food and drinks.
Remember, food is as much an addiction as drugs or alcohol. You need to tackle overcoming it in a similar attack mode.
Step one—admit the addiction.
Discerning between Real Hunger and Emotional Hunger
Once you’ve admitted that you struggle with the issue of emotional eating, you can start to pull out the holds it has over you and your health. One way to figure out your eating habits is to keep a food journal. By consciously forcing yourself to be accountable to you by writing it down, your mental resolve to eat only when hungry will be strengthened.
Remember, when you reach for food to ask yourself if you are really hungry or just emotionally hungry.
Most causes of emotional eating will fall under one of the 3 categories above. There may be some that don’t, but no matter what, the best way to treat emotional eating is to be mindful of your eating. Like the saying goes, “Eat to live and not live to eat.”
You must be able to tell when you’re actually hungry. Real hunger usually makes your stomach growl. If you find yourself reaching for food when you’re not hungry, you’ll need to ask yourself “why” you’re doing it.
- Are you bored?
- Is this a habit or mechanism to self-soothe?
- Will eating the food make you feel better?
Go Do Something
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to stop and go “do something” else instead of eating. Take control and actively break the habit. You need to learn how to comfort yourself without comfort foods. Drink a glass of water. Sometimes that is all you are actually needing.
When you go grocery shopping, do NOT purchase foods that you know you should not be eating. Cookies, ice cream, cakes, chips and all the other pleasure foods should be avoided. You do not want these foods lying around the house constantly calling out your name and tempting you. And you will save money too!
If it’s not in the refrigerator, you won’t be able to eat it. Instead go do something else like read or sleep or even take an evening walk. It may seem extreme to do this but this is a problem that requires extreme measures.
After just two weeks of mindful eating, you’ll notice that your weight is dropping, and you’ll be more aware of what you are eating. Psst, you will also discover that your cravings will lessen and you will even be able to think more clearly.
From here on, things will get better. You’ll stop rewarding yourself with food. Instead, food will be the fuel that it actually is intended to be.
Always remember that whatever your problem may be, the answer is not in the refrigerator the cookie and chip bags. Keep that in mind and you will overcome the 3 causes of emotional eating.