Emotional Eating

Tina Butt

I took a survey of why people eat. I was not shocked to hear that most people do not eat purely for hunger; but, they eat due to their emotions. What I was shocked about, was that people knew they were doing this. “I snack when I’m bored. I eat when I am sad. I treat myself when I do something good. I get food when I’m under stress.” The commonality was, people do this and feel good. But, they also agreed, they would feel “disappointed in themselves after they eat when they really were not hungry”.

I am not talking about “overeating”. I am talking about emotional eating. Which means we humans, use food to “feel” happy, good, and satisfied. This is a psychological issue that can be overlooked when dealing with someone dealing with weight issues. So, the reason I am writing about this is because I to am an emotional eater, as is my family. In some ways, I think that I have encouraged it in my daughter. When she would do well in school or a sport “let’s go to Dairy Queen!” I definitely was snacking when I was bored or tired. Other people use food to numb their emotions instead of acknowledging them.

We use food for happy times and sad times. When something sad or stressful happens in life, people “help” by cooking meals, bringing a dish to pass at a party, or baking treats for the holiday. When we get together with a friend or family, it is usually over a meal. We are using food for other means than what it is really supposed to be used for- hunger.

So, what is the big deal? Why is emotional eating not good?

Emotional eating develops from a habit. It was a habit for us to go to DQ when my daughter did well; I would eat chips at 2:30 pm daily because I was tired; others sit and watch TV with their hand in a bag of popcorn. The problem with this is, we are usually choosing the unhealthy foods to treat our emotions; sweets, high fat, large portions, high calorie. When this is done chronically over time, our health will suffer. We gain weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue, chronic inflammation, and more sicknesses. Our bodies are meant to eat when we are hungry, the prob;em is that over time we have changed our brain chemistry to lose the “feeling of hunger”.

When our body is hungry, there are several things that happen within us to satisfy that hunger feeling. Hunger is controlled by our brain, blood sugar level, hormone levels and how empty our stomach is. When you are constantly snacking, you disrupt the normal biologic way our body is supposed to work. When you emotionally eat, you are treating “feelings” not hunger.

So what can you do to change this habit? There are several things that I did to stop this form of snacking. I am much better at not treating my daughter ot a treat when she does something good. Here is how I conquered emotional eating.

Boredom: I choose a healthy snack or I drink water instead. I will also do something to keep my mind busy. I read, craft or play a game with my family. I am not one for watching TV, but what I will do is portion my snacks. Instead of having a full large bag of popcorn in front of me, I will have a small serving in a bowl. I keep a cup of water with me at all times. I also drink hot green tea with chicory root in it to help with hunger.

Anxiety/stress: I have recently learned how to meditate to help calm my mind. I also do pursed lip breathing under times of stress. I teach my daughter to count 1-2-3-3-2-1. This also helps with me during the day when I am feeling overwhelmed, I walk away from the situation to gather my thoughts, then I can re-enter the situation with a clear mind.

Fatigue: Listen to your body, When you are tired, rest. Do not eat. The reason why we eat when tired is to get the blood sugar up, this will cause temporary energy then you will soon crash and be more tired than when you started. I try very hard to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. I will drink water when I am feeling very tired.

I recommend keeping a food diary so you can see a trend in the time of day you eat and the types of food. Also track your emotions at the time you are eating.

Do not keep the foods around that you tend to go to in stressful situations (mine was chips or ice cream).

Do not completely eliminate a food group, this will cause you to crave it and eat more than the recommended serving size.

Choose healthy snacks- fruits, vegetables. There are so many options available.

Manage your stress. Get involved in yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.

Get support. Lean on family, friends or join a support group. Find someone that will hold you accountable.

If this is you, if you have a problem with emotional eating please make an appointment with me. We can work together to get your mind to shift its thoughts toward a positive, healthier mindset. This will allow you to see why you are an emotional eater. Once we figure this out, you can move toward a healthy lifestyle. Once I recognized that I was an emotional eater, I took the necessary steps to control my emotions. This allowed me to eat when hungry. I have gained more energy, clarity and have been able to lose a significant amount of weight when I was stuck at the same weight for over 10 years. I want to help you get to this point in your life.

I encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle. I believe in you! Do you believe in yourself? Let’s do this!

Qualified Wellness Solutions, LLC

Tina Butt, Health and Wellness Coach and Healthcare Advocate