Following on from my last post about emotional eating, this post will help you assess if you’re in the gang……
We eat for many reasons. For some of us, eating is a time of social interaction or fun. Others eat strictly because the body is sending signals from the stomach by way of hormones telling them they’re hungry, in other words, they eat to live. (There’s no way in hell that I’d end up being that person though!). I’ve always been an emotional eater but didn’t realise I was until the last few years. In the last couple of years, my life has changed so much and I’m not really having any stress or anything but I still find myself emotionally eating. How come though if I’m not under stress? Well, I use food as a reward system for myself too. This is something I’m really trying to work on and have started putting some strategies in place.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people, eating is an emotional crutch. They eat because stress and strong emotions have taken over and food becomes a way to block the unpleasantness of the feelings. Some of the most common feelings that people eat are loneliness, stress, sadness, heartache, and boredom.
When you eat emotionally in order to stuff feelings, you end up eating too much or eating the wrong foods. Your overall health suffers because of this kind of eating. It can lead to weight gain, and obesity, which leads to complications such as, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Given that menopausal and women are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke, we can’t really afford to get off on the wrong foot here!
Emotional eating also often results in feelings of guilt and shame and has a negative impact on your self-image and self-esteem. A vicious cycle often consumes those who fall into the dysfunctional habit of using food as a coping strategy.
How do you know if you’re eating for emotional reasons?
To assess if you eat to stuff those emotions down, you need to ask yourself a few questions. For every yes answer you give, it’s more likely that you are an emotional eater. NO CHEATING!!
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I continue eating when I have a full stomach?
- Do I eat more when I am under stress?
- Has food become a part of my reward system?
- Do I eat in order to calm myself during episodes of anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, or boredom?
- Do I feel powerless when it comes to eating?
- Do I eat to the point of being overstuffed?
- Do I often feel guilty after I eat?
- Do I often feel regret after eating?
- Does food feel like a friend – someone with whom you feel safe?
If you’ve answered yes to most of the above questions, you may be using food as a way to control unpleasant emotional states.
Feelings of hunger can be confusing when you eat emotionally and the hunger you feel when you are an emotional eater is qualitatively different than the hunger you feel when you are physiologically hungry.
Sudden and uncontrollable cravings
When you become hungry because you really need to eat, the hunger pangs come on gradually. In emotional eating, the hunger comes on quite quickly and you feel a need to eat right away, much like a cigarette smoker craves a hit, or an alcoholic craves a drink. If you feel you can’t wait in order to be satisfied, you may be an emotional eater.
Emotional eating isn’t satisfied by just any type of food
When you eat to suppress emotions, only certain comfort foods are craved. Emotional eating tends to offer up uncontrollable cravings for sweet food, salty food or food that is high in fat. These kinds of foods make you feel a rush of endorphins. These are the brain chemicals released when you are really happy.
Emotional eating is mindless
You sit down in front of the TV and, before you know it, you’ve consumed an entire tub of ice cream or a sharing bag of crisps, barely remembering the actual eating. Healthy eating is eating mindfully, paying attention to what you are eating. The eating is a powerful experience you remember and look forward to again.
Even when your stomach is full, you tend to want to eat more
This is because you have mentally and emotionally blocked out the influence of the hormone leptin, released by fat cells that tell you to stop eating. If you eat just for physiological reasons, you pay attention to leptin and stop eating when your stomach is full. You don’t feel the familiar growling in your stomach or stomach pangs when you are eating for emotional reasons. The source of the hunger doesn’t come from your stomach, which releases the hormone “ghrelin” to tell you that you are hungry. The hunger comes instead from your brain and you are consumed by thoughts of eating.
Guilt and shame
After you’ve eaten because of your emotions, you tend to feel guilty, shameful, or regretful about what you’ve done. On some deeper level, you know that your body didn’t really need to eat the food you have just eaten and you feel bad about yourself. This is a powerful indicator of dysfunctional eating because food consumption is necessary to sustain life, so feelings of guilt are in no way appropriate unless that consumption is problematic.
Do you recognise any of these signs in yourself? This post will share some tips for how to stop emotional eating.