Ways To End Emotional Eating
Do you find yourself gaining weight during times of stress? Do you fear boredom because you know you’ll simply eat to fill the time? These are just a few of the many symptoms of emotional overeating.
First, know that you are not alone. In 2011, a study done by Wade, Keski-Rahkonen and Hudson revealed that there are estimated to be as many as 20 million adults and children who have or will have an eating disorder at some time in their life. These disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge and overeating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
Sadly, emotional overeating has often been made out to be a joke in our society – movies, TV shows, and the resulting stereotypes cause many people to laugh about how much ice cream it takes to get over a boyfriend, or how much chocolate we need to overcome rejection. But for those who actually suffer from emotional overeating, it’s anything but funny.
Signs And Symptoms
If you think you may suffer from this relatively common eating disorder, here are some signs and symptoms that may help you identify whether or not you are struggling with emotional eating.
If you are a binge eater or emotional eater, you may stuff food in and not even really taste it or realize what you’re doing. It’s as though you are completely “tuned out” or disassociate while you mindlessly stuff food in to your mouth.
Feelings of Guilt and Shame
People with emotional overeating disorders feel deep shame and embarrassment, or fall in to a pattern of self-hatred once they’ve gone through an eating binge. Unfortunately, these feelings make one reach for more food for comfort and to numb these negative feelings. This becomes an endless cycle of emotional eating.
Eating In Secret
Due to embarrassment or shame, many emotional eaters stash away food and eat in private to avoid being seen. This may include eating alone at home, their car, a storage closet or even locking themselves in a bathroom to prevent anyone seeing what they are doing.
Always Thinking About Food
Emotional eaters are often consumed by thoughts of food. They think about food most of the time each day. The thought of leaving the house without snacks or money to buy food creates anxiety. It is not uncommon to be thinking about what you will eat for your next meal while you are already eating the present meal. Constantly thinking about food (food obsession), may be a sign that one has an emotional eating disorder.
Sometimes, emotional overeaters will eat large amounts of food to comfort themselves, and then feel extremely sick afterward. This is our body’s way of telling us we’ve eaten too much- more than is good for us. For emotional overeaters, this episode of feeling sick does nothing to prevent the next binge.
Is Your Weight Gain the Result of Emotional Eating?
Weight gain can be alarming to most of us, but what is more upsetting is when you can’t seem to identify the cause of it. This causes even more upset.
Emotional overeating is a sneaky problem by its very nature. Because it involves mindless eating, it happens without us realizing it. If you are wondering what is causing your weight gain, the tips below may help you identify what is general overeating, poor food choice and lack of exercise weight gain versus emotional overeating weight gain.
Unexplained Weight Gain
If you are gaining weight and can’t seem to figure out why, this is (ironically) a sign that the problem may be emotional overeating. As noted above, when emotionally overeating, one does not realize they are doing it as one can become numb and “tune out” while eating. You may be doing all the right things to maintain your weight like working out regularly and eating healthy meals but still gaining weight. Mindless eating when feeling negative emotions may be the cause.
A Sudden Urge To Eat
Experts in this field such as author Geneen Roth say that “emotional hunger” comes on quite suddenly, such as an overwhelming craving for a certain type of food or the the urge to eat now. True hunger comes on in more subtle way, and is gradual as it builds. Unless a person has a low blood sugar condition or has gone for a long period of time without eating, true hunger does not come through as an urgent need.
As studies continue, the deep connection between depression and emotional overeating can no longer be overlooked. Do you ever feel blue or depressed from time to time? When you think about your depression, where do your thoughts lead to? What are things you do to cope? If you are thinking about your favorite comfort food with this question, this may be a sign that your overeating is based on your emotional state.
Is your unexplained weight coinciding with a particularly stressful time in your life? Has this happened before at times in your life where you had a high level of stress? Stress, with the anxiety and negative feelings that accompany it, can be a trigger situation causing one to emotionally overeat as a way of coping.
Intense Shame and Guilt
After you eat, are you consumed with thoughts of self-loathing, shame or guilt? These feelings are signs that you may be engaging in emotional overeating. Regular eating to satisfy true hunger does not make a person feel guilty or ashamed.
In emotional overeating, cravings may be so specific that no other food will do to satisfy your “hunger.” You feel like you must have that particular food to feel satisfied and nothing else will do.
Do any of these signs and symptoms describe you and your situation? If so, don’t despair. You are not alone.
In this special series, we are going to discuss ways to identify, work through and end the cycle of emotional eating. We will cover how to recognize the signs of emotional eating and what steps can be taken to end this painful cycle once and for all.
Coming Up in Part Two of the Series: The Causes of Emotional Eating and Finding Your Triggers
If you are one of the millions of people who have suffered through the cycles of emotional eating, what have you found that has helped you? Please feel free to join the discussion below.