The Science Behind Emotional Eating
Sometimes, instead of dealing with our emotions, we may choose to eat something instead. This is known as emotional eating and is a bad habit to get into. By choosing to work out our issues through food, we’re actually putting ourselves at risk of more stress and problems in the long run. Our experts have provided some information on why we eat when emotional, and also how to stop.
Eating for Reasons Besides Hunger
There are two ways that we eat, eating when we’re hungry and eating despite not feeling any hunger. The latter can be due to reasons such as being unable to resist a delicious treat or not wanting to feel rude. However, if you’re eating due to stress, or to avoid dealing with something, that is a red flag.
Common reasons for emotional eating include exhaustion, stress, suppressing your emotions of sadness or even feeling happy and lack of self-care. A lot of things can cause emotional eating. Positive or negative emotions can trigger a desire to try and bring your mood back to normal. Emotional eating tends to affect women more than men.
The Emotional Eating Cycle
While emotional eating is often brought on by a trigger, it is also something that people do out of habit. A habit can be broken down into three main parts, the cue, the routine, and the reward. Most cues involve location, time, other people, an emotion, or a previous action. A previous action could mean something such as eating a mint after a meal. If you’re an emotional eater, learning what the cue is and avoiding it is essential. It also helps to change the reward. If you reward yourself with food after a bad day, switch instead to a relaxing bath.
How to Stop Emotional Eating
A crucial step to stop emotional eating is to recognize the initial trigger and pausing before you take any action. Something to try is five minutes of deep breathing between the trigger and any reaction. This can help you relax and handle the emotions the trigger brought on without needing to use food. Doing something unrelated to eating such as having a shower or going for a walk can also help.
Responding to your emotions using food makes your brain associate the food with rewards. Instead, select other beneficial activities like working on a hobby.
5 Ways to Quit Emotional Eating
- Watch Happy Films – Feeling sad can make us feel lonely, causing us to eat more. Instead, try to watch funnier, more uplifting films.
- Change Your Fan Focus – Being a fan of things, whether sports teams or competition shows, can cause stress when your favourite loses. A study following Sunday night NFL games found that areas with losing teams experienced an increased consumption of high-calorie foods. This decreased in areas with teams that won and remained the same where a team didn’t play or where there were no teams. Instead, practice self-affirmation techniques to counteract this phenomenon.
- Change How You Use Social Media – Occasionally, social media can make us feel uncomfortable, lonely, or bad about ourselves. Those who spend more time on sites like Facebook have been found to have a higher BMI. Usage overall shows a decrease in self-control and increase in snacking. Instead, choose sites that focus on positive things such as empowering quotes and healthy recipes.
- Get More Sleep – Sleeping restlessly can trigger a bigger appetite and a decreased ability to resist temptation. It also affects your hormones that regulate appetite and increases cravings. Creating a bedtime ritual can help you calm down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
- Alleviate Boredom – Being bored can be a trigger for snacking and can decrease your ability to resist eating when you feel emotional. A great way to reduce your boredom is to change your routine. Go out when you would otherwise stay home, exercise, or take up a hobby.
Emotional eating is a bad habit, but luckily one that can be broken with understanding and learning new ways to cope. Knowing what is best for your health and the health of those around you is something you’ll learn when you enroll to become a holistic nutritionist as the Edison Institute of Nutrition. Our classes are also online!
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