An Exploration of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating, also often referred to as stress eating, is something that is very common in the modern world. Ultimately, food is used to cope with emotions. However, this is not healthy and can cause a multitude of problems. In this article, we will explore the causes, effects, and possible solutions to this eating habit. 

What Causes Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is often something that starts in childhood. It can occur due to parents teaching their children that food provides them comfort when they are upset. In these situations a bad day is compensated or a good deed is rewarded with a treat such as junk food or something that is high in calories. This forms a habit that often persists into adult life. 

Another cause for emotional eating is often depression as individuals might use food to distract themselves from the negative emotions they are feeling. They also do this to avoid dealing with those emotions and provide themselves with temporary pleasure. 

Effects of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating can have a range of effects on both one’s physical and mental health. Some of these effects include:

  • Poor Nutrition: Those who suffer from emotional eating often tend to choose junk food to comfort themselves. These foods have a high caloric density and do not provide a lot of healthy nutrients. Over time, one’s body can experience a lack of nutrients required to function optimally. 
  • Obesity: While one might not receive enough healthy nutrients, this does not mean that one is not consuming calories. Rather, it is an unhealthy kind of calories. This excessive eating style can lead to weight gain and eventually obesity.
  • Health Problems: The lack of nutrients and excessive weight gain associated with emotional eating can lead to a variety of health problems. This can include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more
  • Emotional Distress: Other than the physical effects, emotional eating can cause a cycle of negative emotions. As individuals consume food that they know is unhealthy and bad for them, they feel guilty, which leads to more emotional eating, and so on and so forth the cycle continues. 

How to Prevent Stress Eating

While emotional eating is hard to control and overcome, there are ways that one can start to shift one’s mindset. These strategies  include:

  • Identify Triggers: For every emotional eater, there are certain emotions and situations that trigger the urge to comfort themselves with food. Once these situations and emotions have been identified, one can avoid them or identify whether or not one is actually hungry or just seeking comfort. 
  • Practice Mindfulness: It is important to ensure that you practise mindfulness while eating. This includes listening to hunger and fullness cues. In order to start practising this, it could be a good idea to eat without any distractions and focus on the physical cues your body is providing. Therefore, avoid watching tv, having conversations, and any other distractions as this will pull your attention away. While this might seem extreme it does work and will help you to listen to your body. 
  • Plan Healthy Meals and Snacks: Emotional eating is often coupled with impulsive decisions. If you plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, this could help you curb the urge to order something or overeat. 
  • Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms: It can help to find healthy coping mechanisms with which to replace the comforting food you would usually eat. Try channelling your emotions into exercise, meditation, art, or something else that can distract you from the urge to eat junk food. 
  • Seek External Support: It could be beneficial to seek help and support from a professional. A therapist will be able to help you understand where your emotional eating habits are stemming from and provide you with some useful coping mechanisms. 

If you are determined to take control of emotional eating and live a healthy lifestyle, then we at Slender Wonder are ready to help! Contact us to find out more about how you can change your lifestyle and live healthier. 

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