• Do you eat more when you are feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you are not hungry or feeling full?
  • Do you eat to feel better? To soothe & calm yourself when sad, bored, etc?
  • Do you reward yourself with food often?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

Fat woman dressed in lingerie holding a chocolate muffin behind his back in his hand.

Difference Between Emotional Hunger and Physical Hunger

Physical Hunger

  • comes on gradually
  • can wait
  • is open to options – lots of things sound good
  • stops when you are full
  • eating to satisfy this hunger doesn’t make you feel bad

Emotional Hunger

  • comes on suddenly
  • feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly
  • craves specific comfort foods
  • isn’t satisfied with a full stomach
  • triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness and shame

Causes of Emotional Eating

  1. Stress – cortisol (stress hormone) triggers cravings for salty, sweet and high fat foods – giving you a burst of energy and pleasure.
  2. Silencing uncomfortable emotions – numbing yourself with food so you can avoid feelings you would rather not have – anger, resentment, anxious, sad, lonely, shame.
  3. Boredom or emptiness – Fills a void for a short period of time.
  4. Childhood habit – rewards, nostalgia these can carry over to adultlife.
  5. Social – overeat just because it’s there.

What To Do?

1. Identify Your Triggers – Keep a food and mood diary to track these. Identify them then backtrack.
What you ate or wanted to eat? What happened to set this up? How you felt before you ate? What you felt as you were eating? How you felt afterwards?

 
2. Find Other Ways To Feed Your Feelings – beyond food to meet your emotional needs. The keys to success are moving (dance, bike, swim, walk…), changing your focus (outside of yourself with music, friend, helping others, etc) and engaging in gratitude (get optimistic) are some universal tools.

 
Ideas are – Exhausted –> take a hot bath or spa, allow self to have quick nap, lay in sun outdoors & listen to nature; Lonely or down –> ring a fun friend, go for a walk with a friend or your dog, watch a comedy movie, crank up fun music; Anxious –> dance to your favourite song, go for a walk, do 15 minutes of yoga, take it out with a friend.

 
3. Pause When Cravings Hit – Take 5 before you mindlessly part-take – go outside and skip for 5 minutes, dance like a maniac to your favourite song, drink 2 glasses water, 30 sit ups. This will interrupt your mindless pattern so you can exert your option to choose.

 
Remember it is key to learn to accept your feelings even the bad ones and remember you have control over your emotions…..a choice in each and every moment. An emotion lasts for 45 seconds you can choose to let it pass or hold onto it for 1 hour, 1 day, 1 year, a lifetime.
Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions they can be scary but in reality when we don’t obsess or supress them, even the most difficult feeling subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention.
Instead opt for being present in the moment – feel it, smell it, hear it, see it. In opening up to our emotions our lives become richer as they help us discover our deepest desires, fears, frustrations and the things that make us fulfilled and happy.

 
4. Prevention With Healthy Habits – Being physically strong, relaxed, well rested enables you to better handle what life throws at you. Living in overwhelm and exhaustion will send you start to the fridge or pantry.

 
• Daily exercise – reduces stress, enhances mood, boosts energy levels, increases fitness
• Daily relaxation – schedule in 30 mins each day to relax, decompress, unwind. Recharge your batteries, break from responsibilities
• Connect with others – social activities, close relationships are essentila to protect you from the negative effects of stress.
• Get at least 8 hours sleep – lack of sleep is linked to consuming more food and reduced satiety signals, plus increased stress levels.

 
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