Emotional eating is having a large amount of food that is not triggered by hunger but by a psychological state, such as emotions. Usually, it is craving for unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar and tend to make us gain weight. Dietitians believe that a large percentage of obesity problems have to do with emotional eating. That also explains why dieting fail so often: after the diet a person think it is safe to get back to their previous eating habits, which make them regain the lost weight or often even gain more.

The reason why it is difficult to deal with emotional eating disorder is that eating help us cope with the emotions and calms us down, albeit temporarily. For that reason  eating comes first to our mind when dealing with emotional stress. Overeating that causes weight gain adds even more stress and can lead to certain psychological problems like anger and dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and problems with the partner, anxiety and even depression. As a result we end up in a vicious circle: the more unhappy and anxious we feel the more we are prone to overeat; the more weight we gain the more miserable we feel. Therefore, in order to overcome this self destructive habit the psychological reasons that trigger it need to be pinned down.

The Reasons That Can Causes Emotional Hunger

reasons for emotional eatingEmotional eating is caused by certain groups emotions and situations:

1. Eating out with other people. We can be prompted to eat more than we want by others at the events, celebrations or at the restaurant.

2. Emotions. When we feel down eating makes us feel better–food fills the emotional void.

3. Eating without being hungry can be associated with certain activities like watching tv, in a cinema or during sports event.

4. Some people tend to eat more because of the low self- esteem. Eating is like punishment for being overweight and for a lack of will power to exercise.

5. We tend to overeat in certain situations, for example, after we miss one of the meals, trying to get rid of a headache or other pain.

How to Break The Habit

It is a good practice when trying to figure out the reasons for over eating to start recording what and when you eat. Noticing how you feel and what are your thoughts at that particular moment should help you to pin point the main reasons for overeating. Once you are in the clear you can start fighting the causing factors one by one. Engaging in other activities when you feel the urge to eat is an effective way of breaking free from the vicious cycle.

The things that can help:

  • reading a book or a magazine
  • listening to music
  • going for a walk
  • deep breathing
  • calling a friend
  • writing
  • doing dishes, etc.

Diverting the attention from food to other activities could help in a short run but to break free from the emotional eating for good you would have to face and fight the underlying psychological reasons. Depending on the nature of the psychological triggers one may consider will power enhancing techniques, such as relaxation exercises and meditation, individual or group therapy, or even hiring a health coach.