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Do you eat when you are stressed, angry, or upset? Often times, eating like this can leave you feeling both emotionally and physically worse than before, with the guilt of overeating added onto whichever negative emotion you were already experiencing. Believe it or not, this is a problem many people experience, commonly known as “emotional eating.”

Emotional eating can be defined as “using food to make yourself feel better—eating to fill emotional needs, rather than to fill your stomach.” Using food occasionally as a reward is not necessarily a bad thing; eating becomes a problem, however, when it becomes your first impulse when you are feeling down. When you are overcome with the desire to eat, it may be hard to distinguish actual physical hunger from emotional hunger. As it turns out, there are some signs you can look for to determine whether you are experiencing emotional hunger:

  • Sudden onset of hunger
  • Craving certain foods
  • Mindless eating
  • Feelings of guilt, regret, or shame

Furthermore, the weight you gain from emotional overeating can lead you to feel even more stressed or upset, triggering another bout of emotional eating. As you can imagine, this can quickly turn into an endless cycle of guilt. Luckily, there are ways to overcome emotional eating!

Overeating may seem hard to overcome, but it is possible.

Image Source: Chris Ryan

Be able to recognize the emotional triggers that cause you to reach for that comfort food impulsively. You can do this by maintaining a food diary, “a written record of what, how much, and when you eat.” You can look at this food diary to identify patterns in when you eat and what you eat. These patterns can clue you in on some emotional triggers that may be leading you to emotional eating.

Furthermore, some common triggers of emotional eating include stress, anxiety, and boredom. Once you recognize these triggers from the patterns in your food diary, you will need to find new, healthy alternatives to relieve the stress that you are experiencing. There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Talk to a friend
  • Playing a game
  • Exercising
  • Reading a book or magazine

While these suggestions are great, sometimes developing alternatives for emotional eating may not be enough. At this point, a wise thing to do would be to also stock your house with only healthy food so that when you do eat a little extra, it will prevent excess weight gain. Finally, if none of these suggestions help, it is probably a good idea to see a health professional to further discuss resources and techniques to help you deal with stress.

Feature Image Source: Unsplash

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