When Food Is Love: 7 Expert Ways to Combat Emotional Eating

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Woman and chocolate
Are you using food as a substitute for love? Break free from emotional eating with these steps.

Have you ever found yourself mindlessly noshing on cookies only to discover you've eaten the whole box? When you have an argument with your significant other, do you reach for a pint of ice cream or a bag of barbecue chips? If you're feeling lonely after a breakup, do you find comfort in a bowl of mac and cheese or a slice of pizza? If so, you're not alone. Emotional eating is a serious problem that experts say can account for 75 percent of overeating.

If you feel a sudden onset of insatiable hunger, you're craving a specific food, you're eating alone, you're consuming mass quantities of food, or you're feeling angry or guilty about the food you're consuming, you may be suffering from an emotional eating disorder. I spoke with a panel of experts to determine just how to break the tricky cycle of destructively eating to fill up your heart, instead of just your stomach.

 

"Emotions are often easy to mistake for hunger," says life and health coach Nicole Burley, YourTango Expert and author of Proud, Not Perfect: A Practical Approach to Healthy Habits. "When you think about it, we feel our pain, our loneliness, our sadness in our gut — the same as when we’re hungry."

Health and lifestyle coach and YourTango Expert Tatiana Abend says that people often resort to emotional eating because they're feeling rejected, especially in their romantic relationships. Abend warns, "Self-care could go out the window if you feel rejected and tell yourself, 'Everyone hates me, so I hate myself.'"

Nancy Lee Bentley, Wholistic Health Expert and YourTango Expert, believes that the "solar plexus," the major energy junction center under our ribcage, is in the same area as the stomach, causing us to sometimes confuse the emotional feeling of satisfaction with the physical sensation of "fullness" from having eaten. "During a breakup or long periods of loneliness," says Bentley, "we sometimes try to 'fill' up that energy center with food to make up for the withdrawal of love."

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