Emotional Eating : How to identify and treat it

By  |  0 Comments

Does your stomach have no stop sign? Do you constantly feel hungry? Do you crave certain foods? If the above things happen to you many times in a day, chances are you are faced with emotional eating disorder. It means you are eating not because your body needs nourishment but you are using it as a coping mechanism to deal with feelings.

What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is a disorder that occurs when people attempt to manage their feelings, emotions, and moods by eating and think that the food will comfort them.

It is a form of defence mechanism of the body, which soothes people who are disturbed or unsettled.


Probably glamorized by movies and the media, when people see the crying Sonam Kapoor dig into a box of ice cream or Kerry Washington of Scandal drinking wine every time anything goes out of the plan, the message gets implanted in us. We feel like have rich, fatty foods will help us deal with our problems.

In other words, emotional eating is eating to fill your emotions and feelings, and not your stomach. Sometimes, it is alright to let go and eat as we desire but things go out of control when it becomes a routine and this becomes a habit of binge eating. It becomes a major issue if a person starts depending on food in order to tackle all his/her emotional problems.

Common symptoms of emotional eating

The first step for change is admitting we have a problem. And the biggest challenge is to identify and accept that you are struggling with emotional eating.


Here are the most common symptoms of emotional eating disorder and how you can differentiate it from physical hunger.

1. Your hunger attack comes suddenly: If you tend to feel hungry all of a sudden and get those hunger attacks all too frequently, beware! You are suffering from emotional eating. Physical hunger comes gradually.

2. You want a specific kind of food: When you are eating for emotional reasons, you will be craving a particular food which is called a comfort food. In contrast, when you are hungry, you will have a wholesome meal and not just one thing.

3. Continuous eating: In emotional eating, you cannot comprehend when to stop. Even if you have eaten a lot, you still feel hungry and feel like eating more. But in case of actual hunger, you will feel satisfied and full after having a certain amount of food.

4. Emotional hunger must be satisfied instantly: You feel that you will want to eat immediately and want that specific food you are craving. But if you are physically hungry, you can definitely wait a while and the urge to eat is not that urgent.

5. You feel guilty after you have eaten

This is a vicious cycle because when you feel depressed you eat and then experience unsettled emotions and eat again to fill this . As a result, you will again feel guilty and this cycle will just go on and on. But if you are eating to satisfy normal hunger, you never feel guilty about it.


Binge eating can have several effects from mild and acceptable to severely injurious to health

  • high cholesterol
  • weight gain
  • loss of sexual desire
  • fatigue
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • hypertension (high blood-pressure)
  • sleep apnea (temporary suspension of breathing during sleep)
  • major depression
  • arthritis
  • bone softening

What you can do to change this?


1. Understand that you are eating to soothe your emotions.
The first step is to be aware that there is a problem and notice every time you are eating. Are you eating to satisfy your physical hunger or for emotional reasons? The symptoms discussed above can help you in this process. You can also keep a diary to note what you ate and when, to identify the real reasons behind those hunger pangs.

2. Get more sleep.
Researches indicate that proper and effective sleep can significantly curb your craving for unhealthy food.
3. Eat a little.
When pangs strike, eat whatever you desire but only small portions and do so every 2 hours or so. If you do that, you control your craving at an early stage and you are likely to eat less over a period of time.

4. Deal with your emotions.

Prevention is always better than cure. So express your feelings now and then and do not keep them all bundled up. Or take professional help and work on your emotions. Once you deal with the root cause behind the emotional issue, you can easily overcome the habit of emotional eating.


5. Tell somebody you trust:

Things are always easier when somebody either your friends/relatives/family support you and provide encouragement. Talking about your issues can help as their perspective can be an eye-opener for you.


6. Avoid temptation:

You’re much more likely to binge if you have junk food, desserts, and unhealthy food stuff in the house. Do not buy them or keep a minimal proportion in your house.


7. Exercise:

Not only will exercise help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it also lifts depression, improves overall health, and reduces stress. Plus cardio like swimming, kick-boxing, power yoga, boxing, zumba will help you effectively take out your aggression.


8. Fight boredom: Find a hobby like gardening, cycling, or playing some instrument that will distract you.