If you have attempted to stifle sorrow or celebrate joy by eating, you know what mood-based eating is all about. It is normal to celebrate your birthday with some cake and ice cream, but emotional eating gets out of control when it happens most of the time. This can result in health problems like overweight and obesity, diabetes and heart problems, and brain-based issues like stress, anxiety and depression. People who don't have a problem with emotional eating tend to believe it is caused by a simple lack of self-control. The emotional eater should just "toughen up” and stop overeating as a response to feelings rather than hunger.
That approach leads to no resolution, because people with eating disorders are sometimes the most dedicated to solving their problems. They go on diets and seek the aid of mental health professionals, but for one reason or another, for some people, emotions continue to trigger an eating response.
What is causing so many people to eat to regulate their moods, rather than for hunger? The answers are many, and as diverse as individuals are. However, nutritionists, psychologists and eating disorder specialists have identified some triggers which show up again and again when emotional eating is present. If you find any of the following causes of this eating issue are present in your life, it can help you avoid giving into eating for emotional reasons.
Hating Your Body
You may think people unhappy with the way they look physically, will diet and eat less to create the transformation they are looking for. However, it is very common to do just the opposite. You may hate the way you look, and this opinion is negatively reinforced by a countless stream of marketing messages which tell you that you must look a certain way.
You don't like how your body looks, and this negative feeling causes you to eat comfort foods so that you can feel better momentarily. After your emotional eating session, you realize that you probably didn't do your body any favors. This drives home your feelings of shame and self-hatred, unhealthy and untrue emotions that you tried to appease with food. Loving yourself now is necessary to stop the emotional eating cycle which is causing more damage to your body.
A Lack of Awareness
Unconscious eating is often emotionally based. You are not conscious of what you are doing, what you are eating or why you are eating. When a moment of clarity and consciousness hits you, you realize what you have just eaten. To cure this, be aware and mindful of every time you eat, and honest with yourself as to why you are eating.
Eating Is the Only Thing You Have to Look Forward To
For some, food is perceived as the only good thing in their life. Therapists say emotional eaters often look forward to their meals, because they see eating and its temporary pleasure as the best thing they ever experience. Some foods cause the release of chemicals that trigger a pleasure response as powerful as cocaine and heroin. Unfortunately, these are usually junk foods that are less than healthy.
Going Too Long Without Eating
Some people tend to eat just one meal a day. Unfortunately, this leaves your body starved of the nutrients it needs most of the day. This means you are mentally not prepared to deal with urges and cravings, and when you finally do eat, it is very easy to overeat comfort foods to answer the "I have been starving all day!" message your brain is giving off.