5 ways to control and stop emotional eating

When eating is used as a way to relieve stress, find comfort or reward ourselves, we are talking about “emotional eating,” which consists of filling our emotional needs rather than our stomachs.

In this case, food is considered to be a primary coping mechanism, for when someone is stressed, upset, angry, lonely or depressed, etc.

But emotional eating does not fix emotional problems. It will even make someone feel worse afterward, especially when the problem is still there. It leaves the person feeling guilty, remorseful and shameful.

Controlling emotional eating might seem difficult at first, but here are five ways to help you start.

1. Understand the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Emotional hunger appears suddenly, calls for comfort food, such as sugars and fat, and needs to be satisfied instantly. It is not located in the stomach, but rather in the mind, because even after eating, you won’t feel satisfied, whereas physical hunger comes gradually, can be satisfied, even with healthy food, and does not generate bad feelings.

2. Find out what triggers emotional eating. It is very important to realize what the reasons behind every emotional craving are. Generally, emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings. Some might eat out of stress or boredom and others will just use it to stuff some emotions down and avoid them. Sometimes, childhood habits might revive at an adult age if the parents rewarded their children with a chocolate or a pizza whenever they got good grades. This reward-exchange mode will stay with the person once they grow up.

3. Pause when a craving strikes. Emotional eating makes the person feel powerless over food. Taking a couple of minutes before actually eating the food gives you a chance to understand your motives at that specific moment. The reason can be associated with a certain emotion, a fight with a loved one or just a feeling of boredom. This pause will, in the long run, give you the opportunity to make a better decision regarding your craving.

4. Find better alternatives. Since food is used to stuff emotions, it is major to find good alternatives for emotional fulfillment when trying to get rid of emotional eating. So, when feeling lonely, you can call someone who makes you feel better, and when bored, reading a good book or doing a fun activity will divert the attention from running to the refrigerator. Trying to lead a balanced and happy life can be helpful as well.

Related: 7 good habits for a happier life

5. Develop healthy habits. This is not about having a healthy eating diet, which would make a logical nutrition advice. It’s rather about exercising daily, making time for social gatherings and engaging in fun activities. Getting good quality of sleep is also an important thing to mention. There are two hormones regulating the appetite in the body, and a lack of sleep will cause the appetite-stimulating hormone to go up and the hormone sending a signal to the brain that you’re full to go down, thus generating a constant feeling of hunger. In other words, the less sleep you get, the more your body will crave food.

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