Emotional eating does not discriminate. It does not care how old you are, your social-economic background, your lifestyle, or how accomplished you’ve become. In fact, you may not even recognize emotional eating for what it is. One definition describes emotional eating as a practice of consuming large quantities of food - usually “comfort” or junk foods - in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.
So think of that the next time you’re rooting on your favorite sports team and are considering indulging in hotdogs, beer, and peanuts - without even the mere sound of a stomach growl!
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Unfortunately we get caught up in the celebrations, stresses, habits and busy-ness of life that we become immune as to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it when it comes to emotional eating.
We numb ourselves with food so we don’t have to deal with uncomfortable emotions, and we reward ourselves with food with commemorating accomplishments, and we crave things that just are not good for us when we’re overworked or overstressed because we think food will bring relief. And it does, for a short period of time.
If you find yourself thinking this sounds all too familiar, know that you are not alone and that emotional eating is more common then what you may think.
I had a moment recently of wanting to do some emotional eating upon reaching my final destination. I had left right after work on a Friday night wanting to escape the busy day and spend the weekend with my girlfriends - which I have not done in years. I didn’t realize, as the rain started coming down, that every semi, RV camper, and slow moving vehicle would also be on the two lane highway I decided to take to cut down on my travel time.
Needless to say, after rain slicked roads and a much longer drive than anticipated, upon my arrival I felt frazzled and had a strong urge to eat something. I realized I just wanted to munch - on anything. I knew I was not hungry, but I also realized I was having a powerful reaction to my unpleasant experience and I wanted to grab something to eat to settle my nerves. Thankfully there was time in between getting re-acquainted with everyone and my desire to stuff my frustration with mindless eating to compensate for my horrific car ride.
I worked through it, everything was fine and we ended up having a wonderful dinner. But you may find yourself in circumstances like that often and wonder how to work through it, or to even recognize what is triggering those emotional eating urges. I recommend starting with predicting what is likely to trigger you.
Here are 5 triggers - see if you catch yourself giving in to any of these:
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1. Emotional: it doesn’t matter the emotion, you name it and you may be eating in response to fatigue, depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, excitement, happiness, stress, etc.
2. Socially: eating when around other people, or being around people who are eating