Emotional eating is a real phenomenon. Lots of people have issues with emotional eating. It’s actually quite common in the United States. A study done in 2013 found that nearly 50% of Americans reported emotional eating at least once a week. And of those who reported emotional eating, 22% said that they did it daily. So, if you’re struggling with emotional eating, know that you’re not alone.
There are millions who are also struggling with this issue. Emotional eating is not just about being lazy or lacking willpower. Some actual emotions and triggers lead to emotional eating. And it’s essential to understand what those triggers are so that you can learn how to prevent emotional eating from happening.
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Here are six reasons why you might be emotionally eating and what you can do to stop it:
If you’re eating because you’re bored, finding other things to do that will occupy your time is crucial. For example, taking a walk, or talking to a friend. Find something that will take your mind off food and make you feel good.
This is actually the number one reason although most people do not realize it. When they’re bored they head to the TV or listen to music or maybe even pick up a book and that all allow for them to sit and eat while doing this activity.
How many of us have found ourselves in a bag of chips and before we know it, we’re reaching the bottom and the chips are gone? That’s right we ate the whole bag and didn’t even know it.
Stress is a significant trigger for emotional eating. Stress is a response to something happening in your life. If you reach for food when stressed, try to find other ways to de-stress. For example, take a hot bath, listen to soothing music, or do some deep breathing exercises.
Maybe you’re someone who comes home through the garage door and into your home and head right for the refrigerator. Maybe the drive home was stressful and there was a traffic jam or just a day of work was enough to put the stress there. So heading to the refrigerator is a very common habit to find some “feel good” food to eat.
And we do it without even noticing it.
Sadness is another emotion that can lead to emotional eating. If you want to eat when you’re feeling down, try to do something that will make you happy instead. For example, listen to your favorite music, watch a funny movie, or call a friend.
Perhaps you’re feeling sad or uneasy about something someone said to you. Maybe a good friend reached out to you and you couldn’t help them or maybe the news has made you sad.
It is interesting to note that at funerals many people bring desserts. Why? Because we know that sugar perks people back up again and that is the main reason you will see a lot of different desserts at the deceased’s home.
Anxiety can also be a trigger for emotional eating. If you want to eat when you’re anxious, try to find ways to calm yourself down. For example, take some deep breaths, do some relaxation exercises, or talk to someone about what’s making you anxious.
Anxiety is a little different than being stressed. Whereby stress can leave you irritable angry tired and even have difficulty sleeping or digestive issues, anxiety is more persistent.
Even if there is no stress any more anxiety can be prolonged and causes persistent excessive worry about something that may or may not even happen. Basically, it comes down to this; if you have anxiety you may be a worrier.
Loneliness is another emotion that can lead to emotional eating. If you want to eat when you’re feeling lonely, try to find ways to connect with other people. For example, call a friend, go out and socialize, or join a club or group.
Feeling lonely and being lonely are two different things. Feeling lonely means that maybe others are not responding to you. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks where you think it is. When we’re tired we often get the feeling of loneliness. When we miss our friends and our social activities we feel lonely.
Being lonely on the other hand is more of a persistent feeling no matter how many folks live around you. This includes family and friends that you often go out with. You just can’t shake the feeling of being lonely.
Fatigue is another common trigger for emotional eating. If you find yourself wanting to eat when you’re feeling tired, try to find ways to increase your energy level. Take a nap, do some exercise, or drink a bottle of water.
If you are one of those people that get tired in the afternoons and start dragging, you may reach for an energy bar. We’ve all heard the name “energy bar”, which is a perfect name for nothing but a piece of food that is supposed to boost your energy. But in truth doesn’t really do it for us?
Common sense would dictate that a food bar has nothing to do with energy. It has to do with us being tired and reaching for something.
A TRUE STORY –
Years ago when I was teaching high school my students would fall asleep after the lunch period. I thought that maybe they were putting sedatives in the food, just joking, but it was interesting to note that they seemed sluggish in the afternoon.
Knowing that water is a pick-me-up and will give you energy, I bought several cases of water for the week. I would pass these out to all my students all afternoon. However, they got so lively and energized I had to stop doing it by Thursday. I could hardly control their awakeness. So yes, water definitely will boost you when you’re tired.
And the good news? It does it without caffeine.
So, if you find yourself emotionally eating, it’s essential to figure out the trigger. Once you know the trigger, you can find ways to prevent it. In addition, by understanding your emotions and triggers, you can learn how to control your eating and make better choices for your health.
Click below for the journal I used with my patients so they could track their reasons for emotional eating.
Once they brought this back to me, we both saw small changes with HUGE results! And again that book I’ve
often mentioned, Diets Don’t Work is a game-changer when we see why some folks stay “naturally” thin, and others, well, not so much.