Emotional Eating: What, Why and How

young man looking down on a plate of fries
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When you’re unhappy or feeling depressed, do you go to the pantry? If yes, then it’s not just you. People often use food as solace when they are experiencing strong, challenging emotions.

Emotional eating is when you eat as a result of your low feelings. Everybody errs sometimes and they want to escape the lows.

For survival, our bodies require nourishment. It seems logical that eating activates the brain’s reward system and improves mood.

It might be an issue if emotional eating occurs often and you don’t have alternative coping mechanisms.

Eating doesn’t deal with the real problem, even if it could seem like a means to cope in certain situations. Food won’t make you feel better if you’re worried, nervous, bored, lonely, depressed, or weary.

For some individuals, this pattern of using food as a coping mechanism leads to guilt and shame, which are harder emotions to deal with.

So many of the activities we do revolve on food. We eat throughout our festivities. Making meals for someone who is struggling is a gesture of concern. Connecting with people via shared meals is possible. Having an emotional connection with food is normal.

Your ability to choose when, what, and how you eat is the main objective. There will be instances when using food as a coping mechanism against strong emotions makes sense. However, there are superior coping mechanisms for different situations.

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What triggers someone to eat out of emotion?

Almost everything may make someone want to eat. The following are some typical extrinsic causes of emotional eating:

Stress at work

Financial anxiety

Health problems

Relationship difficulties

Emotional eating is more prevalent among those who follow rigid diets or have a history of dieting. Additional interior factors include

Dependable source

Lack of awareness of oneself (realizing how you feel)

Alexithymia (lack of capacity to comprehend, interpret, or explain emotions) (lack of ability to understand, process, or describe emotions)

Emotional instability (inability to manage emotions)

Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) stress axis reversal (under-active cortisol response to stress)

Emotional eating often happens on autopilot. Food is increasingly utilised as a coping mechanism, which strengthens the habit.

Is emotional eating a disorder?

An eating disorder is not only emotional eating on its own. It could indicate disturbed eating, which might eventually result in the development of an eating disorder.

An example of disordered eating is:

Being very picky about what they eat, putting a “good” or “bad” label on food, frequent food restriction or dieting.

Frequently, emotional eating takes precedence over actual hunger erratic mealtimes food-related obsessions that start to interfere with your daily existence remorse or embarrassment after consuming what you consider to be “unhealthy” foods.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that eating disorders are recognised when a person’s eating habits match certain requirements. Despite having problematic eating habits, many individuals do not have eating disorders.

To get assistance, you don’t need to have an eating disorder diagnosis. You should have a healthy relationship with food.

Consult a trained dietician or a mental health professional if you believe you may have disordered eating habits.

Why food?

There are several causes why eating becomes a coping mechanism. An emotional hole or sense of emptiness may arouse from difficult feelings. Here are some reasons that may lead us to food.

Consumption generates dopamine: Brain molecule that helps us feel happy is dopamine.

With regard to eating, we also form routines and habits. If you always eat when stressed, you might reach for food at the first sign of stress without realizing it.

Additionally, food is available everywhere and is lawful. Messages and images about food can increase your feeling of hunger.

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