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What is Emotional Eating?

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We consume food to nourish our bodies. However food is also known to comfort us, especially when we are going through a difficult phase in our lives. It is normal to binge on a large bowl of ice cream or a slab of chocolate when you’re feeling blue. But it is unhealthy if you engage in this on a regular basis.

Emotional eating leads to unnecessary weight gain and thereby can cause unnecessary complications. Studies have indicated that emotional eating is a coping mechanism. Therefore those who find it difficult to deal with stress, anger, loneliness, exhaustion or even boredom tend to indulge in this unhealthy habit.

It is important to understand and accept that emotional hunger can’t be fulfilled by food. Eating might make you feel good for the moment but it is only a temporary measure for a far deeper issue. How do you know if you are an emotional eater? Ask yourself these questions.

• Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
• Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
• Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
• Do you reward yourself with food?
• Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
• Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
• Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are an emotional eater.

The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger

• Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).

• Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.

• Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.

• Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

• Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

• Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

Additional information sourced from –