Emotional eating is a way to deal with emotions and issues such as stress, anger, anxiety, boredom, sadness and loneliness; and typically leads to eating too much food, especially high-calorie, sweet, salty and fatty foods.
In the Mood for Food?
Stressful events and circumstances can trigger emotions that lead to overeating. Some foods may actually have addictive qualities. For example, when you eat foods such as chocolate, your body releases trace amounts of mood- and satisfaction-elevating hormones.
Food can act as a distraction. If someone is worried about something, eating comfort foods may distract them. Unfortunately the distraction is only temporary, and when theyre finished they will not only continue with their worries, but will now feel guilty about overeating.
Almost everyone overeats on occasion, having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal or eating too many candies at Halloween. But when overeating becomes a regular occurrence a binge-eating disorder may be the issue. This is a serious eating disorder where a person frequently consumes unusually large amounts of food. Mental health experts trying to understand what factors may contribute to the risk of developing binge-eating disorder.
When the Problem is Binge Eating
It is estimated that up to 4 percent of the U.S. population has binge-eating disorder. Both children and adults can develop binge-eating disorder, but it’s most common in adults ages 40 to 50, and more common in women than in men. A binge eater may eat 10,000 to 20,000 calories worth of food in one sitting, while someone following a normal diet may eat 1,500 to 3,000 calories in a day.
Binge eaters often have numerous behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms. These may include:
Eating large amounts of food
Eating even when they rae full
Feeling that eating is out of control
Depression and/or anxiety
Frequent dieting without weight loss
Frequently eating alone
Hiding empty food containers
Feeling depressed, disgusted or upset about eating
Anyone with binge-eating disorder symptoms should seek medical help as soon as possible. Binge-eating disorder usually doesn’t go away on its own; and it may even get worse if left untreated. The first place to go is to a primary care doctor. However, he may advise the person seek help directly from a mental health provider.
In the meantime, the following are some strategies the overeater can use to regain control of their eating habits:
Learn to recognize true hunger. Hunger may be emotional and not physical.
Keep a food journal. Write down what and how much is eaten. Over time patterns will emerge that reveal negative eating patterns and triggers to avoid.
Seek comfort in something other than food. Find other ways to de-stress, such as taking a walk, talking to a friend or doing something else that is pleasurable such as a hobby.
When shopping for food, buy healthy foods rather than unhealthy ones. Avoid having an abundance of high-calorie comfort foods in the house. When feeling blue, postpone the shopping trip for a few hours so that these feelings don’t influence decisions at the store.
Eat a balanced diet. Try to eat at fairly regular times and don’t skip breakfast. Include foods from the basic groups in meals, emphasizing whole grains, vegetables and fruits, as well as low-fat dairy products and lean protein sources.
Exercise regularly and get adequate rest. A persons mood is more manageable and their body can more effectively fight stress when it’s fit and well rested.
Make Plans Now Before Overeating Takes Control
Dont give in to emotional eating. Make a plan now to recognize what triggers overeating and this will help to prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes made and the reality that these changes will ensure better health and long-term happiness.