Do you grab something sweet whenever you have a bad day at work or an argument with your partner? Do you feel guilty when you find that you have eaten a whole packet of salty snacks? Do you open the fridge many times per day without feeling hungry? If yes, then read on to learn more about emotional eating or binge eating and how to overcome it.
Important! Continuous emotional eating and binge eating habits can cause other health problems, so if you suspect that you have an emotional eating and binge eating habit, please consult a professional or your doctor.
What is emotional eating and binge eating?
Food is a necessity for us all. For some it is a way of satisfying hunger and maintaining health and energy, and for others it’s a way to kill boredom, reduce stress or alleviate emotional pain. You can eat more and more food consciously and unconsciously.
Emotional eating is a habit of regularly consuming large quantities of food, usually fast, greasy or sweet foods as a result of other feelings rather than hunger. The proper definition of binge eating is disordered eating which is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable eating episodes which are often followed by feelings of guilt and shame.
Experts have estimated that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions. Many emotions like loneliness, boredom, anger, frustration and problems like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem can cause unconscious and uncontrolled eating.
Fortunately, there are many ways to turn away from dependency on food. Just have to have the desire and admit you have a problem.
How to identify that you have emotional eating or binge eating habit?
Experts warn that there are significant differences between physical and emotional hunger. When you have physical hunger, you’re eating because you’re really hungry, while the emotional hunger is caused by emotions.
- Emotional hunger appears suddenly, while physical hunger increases gradually.
- If you suffer from emotional hunger, you tend to eat certain foods like ice cream, salty snacks, pizza or food that can satisfy your cravings. If you eat because you’re really hungry, you usually think of other options and you’ll probably eat some healthier food.
- Emotional eating doesn’t stop when your hunger is satisfied and it continues until you overeat. When you’re really hungry, you’ll probably stop eating when you feel full.
- Emotional hunger forces you to immediately eat any food that you desire, often in unlimited quantities. When you’re physically hungry, you just want to eat something so you won’t be hungry.
- Emotional hunger begins in the head. You often can feel in your mouth the taste of pizza or ice cream, and your mind constantly thinks about the desired food. Physical hunger occurs in the stomach and are distinguished by a sense of emptiness, noise from the intestines and sometimes a very uncomfortable feeling.
- Once you’ve satisfied your emotional hunger, you start feeling guilty and ashamed. If you’re eating because you’re actually physically hungry, there is no shame or guilt.
How to overcome emotional eating and binge eating habits?
Although emotional eating is caused by negative emotions, you can try to control the constant need to consume large amounts of unhealthy foods. Here are some tips on how to overcome emotional eating and binge eating habits:
Learn how to make a distinction between physical and emotional hunger. The differences that we’ve mentioned above will help you to determine whether you’re really hungry or you are trying to satisfy some negative emotions with food.
Discover what causes the emotional and binge eating. Keep a diary of when, what, how much and why you eat. Over time you will determine what is the relationship between your mood and food. You’ll find out which emotions and situations force you to reach unconsciously and uncontrollably for food.
Don’t skip your regular meals. Don’t fool yourself that if you skip breakfast, you’ll consume fewer calories throughout the day. Breakfast, as experts have mentioned many times, is the most important meal of the day. It is generally known that if you eat breakfast rich in protein, you’ll consume fewer calories during the day, because you’ll avoid the constant nibbling and overeating.
Get rid of temptations. If you know that you suffer from emotional eating and binge eating, don’t keep unhealthy food in your home like ice cream, salty and greasy snacks, chocolate and so on. Fill the fridge with healthy food, mostly vegetables and fruits, and healthy snacks like nuts and seeds.
Satisfy your hunger with healthy food. Make sure that your refrigerator is always stocked with fruits and vegetables like baby carrots or cucumber. Whenever you feel the desire to nibble on something, grab the veggies and fruits. Find a healthy food that you enjoy to eat, like grapes, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries etc.
Reduce stress. If stress contributes to your emotional eating and binge eating, try to reduce it with yoga, meditation or other relaxation technique.
Find an activity that will replace eating. It means whenever you feel hunger to ignore. When you feel emotional hunger and desire to get some to kill boredom or loneliness, then you need to react and learn how to avoid overeating. Replace this type of feeding walking, showering, cleaning or other activity where you have no access to food.
Don’t get bored. Find a hobby that you’ll be able to do whenever you feel bored. Going to the gym is a good choice, that way you’ll stay healthy and fit and you’ll have fun. You can also go for a coffee with your friends or walk your dog in the park.
Be physically active. Exercise helps the body to release endorphins, which make us feel good and increase our energy levels. Physical activity also reduces stress.
Have a good night’s sleep. If you’re tired, you’ll always want to snack on something or have an excuse to eat a whole bar of chocolate in order to get more energy. Instead of filling your body with unnecessary calories, try to manage your time so you can have a good night’s sleep.