Posted on Jan 09, 2023, 3 p.m.
Does food provide an escape and relief to you?
From this question alone, you can easily understand that emotional eating is a way of consuming food to deal with overwhelming feelings of distress and anxiety. We've all been there, and this type of diet is not the one that should be followed.
While an occasional trip to the fridge for a midnight snack is totally OK, emotional eating will have you going back and forth.
Learn more about why you are eating through the pain and how you can help make this right.
Emotional Eating Triggers
We don't see binge eating only in movies. It's an eating disorder that's common in real life too. In the United States, around 4 million people are affected by it. According to statistics, it's more common with women than with men.
Both women and men share the same triggers for compulsive eating, and they are:
- Work stress
- Relationship struggles
- Seasonal depression
- Health issues
Imagine coming home from a stressful day at work: you've been dealing with unbearable clients all day, overwhelmed with paperwork, or it's just one of those days. The second you enter your apartment, you make your way to the fridge and pull out anything you can munch on without reheating, cooking, or special preparation.
And before you know it, your dinner for tomorrow is gone tonight. You ate it all up as you were thinking about work stress and didn't even notice.
This can disrupt your meal prep for tomorrow, hurt your stomach, and cause headaches after you finish your meal.
Going through a rough patch with your partner can cause emotional eating also.
We've all seen these plots in romantic movies. The main character gets their heart broken, and the perfect healer is an ice cream bucket that's conveniently waiting in their freezer after a failed date or a breakup.
While you might not have ice cream ready to heal your emotional wounds, you've surely tried this "therapy" with some other food, and it probably didn't work.
Binge eating because you're experiencing stress is actually a common way to compress the emotions that you're feeling.
Seasonal depression hits differently. It usually starts at the beginning of autumn and lasts until the end of winter. During this long, cold period, people mostly lock themselves in their "dens" and eat their stress away.
Some common stressors are the Sun setting earlier, the holiday rush, cold weather, and so on.
Although the Christmas season is supposed to be filled with joy, we cannot escape the stress surrounding plans, family members, finals, exams, work, etc.
Understanding different diets is key to finding out what your body needs and what doesn't work for you. For instance, binge eating is a diet that doesn't work for anyone.
If you're having some health problems, emotional eating may seem like a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not, though.
Whatever health issues you're having, using food to feel better won't help you. Instead, it can lead to weight gain, which can further affect your self-esteem.
It seems like a vicious cycle, right?
Tips To Avoid Emotional Eating
Luckily, there are useful tips to avoid emotional eating and channel the stress you've been feeling in a different way. Here are a couple of tips that will help you avoid binge eating:
Eating Enough Food
The first step would be to eat the right food. That way, your body will not ask for additional snacks.
Meal prepping is one way you can deal with these diet problems. Prepare your meals in advance, and choose wisely. Incorporate the following foods into your diet:
Replacing low-energy with high-energy food will help you feel better and give your body the needed protein.
Healthy eating is not the only way to deal with this problem. Since the root of this problem is not being able to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger, some experts will suggest journaling your emotions.
Pick out a diary for journaling. Instead of taking a random snack from your pantry, start writing about how you feel and why you feel that way. This is a very useful tactic for those who are used to bottling up their emotions.
Practicing mindfulness is another way to deal with binge eating. Now that you've identified the problem, it's time to start looking at things from a different perspective.
Being mindful of what kind of food you're eating is very useful. As you could've guessed, certain foods are more likely to trigger emotional eating.
Here are some examples of food triggers:
- Juices high in sugar
- Processed food
- Cold cuts
- Packaged seeds
- Baked goods
You've probably enjoyed many of the items from the list above. Unfortunately, they're not good for your health and will cause you to eat more, and more, and more…
Moving your body and exercising is one of the very useful ways to break free from emotional eating. It doesn't matter if you're not exactly a gym rat or not. Any kind of physical activity or exercise can help you feel better.
Instead of going to the fridge for a midnight snack, you can go for a walk in the park, a morning jog, ride a bike to the supermarket, lift some weights, or hit the gym.
Exercising not only helps you physically, but it also improves mental health, reduces the risk of diseases, and contributes to bone strength.
Experiencing work stress, relationship struggle, seasonal depression, or even health issues can lead to emotional eating. This is a diet disorder that affects millions of people. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to break free from this vicious cycle and free yourself from binge eating unhealthy foods.
If you've been struggling with emotional eating, you can try getting enough to eat and choosing the right foods, journaling, practicing mindfulness, and exercising.
This article was written for WHN by Andrew Gutman, a former associate editor at Muscle & Fitness, and has contributed to Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, and Spartan Race. Outside of work, he offsets beer curls with dumbbell curls and likes to train BJJ and go on the occasional run.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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