We go out to eat to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, promotion, etc. Or we entertain around dinner parties and holidays. At church functions, there are socials and potluck meals. You name it and somehow it all revolves around food. Yes it has a role in our lives of comfort and entertainment.
Culturally and instinctively we prepare and serve foods to comfort those who have experienced loss, to celebrate joy or to show friendship and love. Food is very important in our lives. Without food we would not be able to perform our daily activities. Our muscles would wither, our nervous system would fail. We all need food.
So... What is emotional eating?
Are you eating whenever you are lonely or sad? Seeing food as more than just a source of energy and enjoying it simply for the satisfaction it gives is not wrong. In fact science shows that food can promote good feelings by chemical reactions caused in our brains. What is a problem, is when an individual cannot experience pain, anxiety, joy or even boredom without turning to food as means of dealing with those feelings, or they are obsessed with food, weight and dieting.
Emotional eaters turn to food as a source of distraction from dealing with feelings. However, eating these foods leads to feelings of guilt which can only be soothed with more eating, restrictive dieting, excessive exercise or purging.
Emotional eaters tend to value themselves based on their weight and how closely they've stuck to their 'ideal' diet. Because of this distorted relationship with food, foods are labeled "GOOD" and "BAD". Emotional eating can lead to serious eating disorders and depression.
How do you know if you are an emotional eater?
Do you turn to food for reasons other than hunger? Are you obsessed with thoughts of food - whether you plan to eat it or are concentrating on restricting yourself from eating it?
Do you regularly try diets and fail - leading to guilt and further over eating? Do you think about or attempt to purge excess food by throwing up or using laxatives? Do you exercise compulsively when you think you've eaten too much?
How can you overcome emotional eating?
Since emotional eating is caused by looking to food as a coping strategy for emotional distress dieting can actually create more problems. When the emotional eater fails to stick to a diet they suffer feelings of guilt that can only be soothed with more food and in turn, more guilt or punishment.
Instead of trying to focus on what they are eating, the emotional eater needs to learn new skills for coping with stressful emotions. Often this requires the help of a Personal Coach or Psychotherapist who deals with emotional eating. It is only by finding replacements for the comfort food provided that the individual can put food into its rightful place and learn healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
Evangeline has taken part in competitive sports since a young age. As a qualified RYA Dinghy Instructor, she understands the importance of proper nutrition for fuelling extreme and endurance sports, especially due to her experience in Team GBR Squads and captaining and coaching her University first team.
In her spare time, Evangeline loves running – especially marathons. On the weekends, you’ll find her taking on water sports or hiking up a hill. Her favourite evenings are spent taking on a HIIT session or squats in the gym before digging into some spicy food and a ton of vegetables – yum!
Find out more about Evie's experience here.