Do you eat to feel better or relieve stress? Well, we are here to tell you that finding comfort in food is actually super common, and it’s part of a practice called emotional eating. Those who emotionally eat reach for food several times a week to suppress and soothe negative feelings. They may even feel guilt or shame after eating this way, leading to a cycle of excess eating and associated issues like weight gain. This article is here to help you identify the signs of emotional eating as you might not even be aware of them.
You Eat When You Are Stressed
When we have a lot on our plate with work, studying, exams or kids, we can reach out for food subconsciously because we are stressed. This tends to happen especially when you’re up late at night and by yourself, though it can happen in the day and when you’re with others. The key sign to look for here is stress.
You Eat as a Response to Your Emotions
When we feel sad, annoyed, disappointed, angry, lonely, anxious, tired or even bored… we can emotionally eat. It’s a reaction so subconsciously embedded that we don’t even think about it. Try and be more in tune with your emotions, notice when you are experiencing a particular feeling and see if you automatically reach for the ice-cream (mine is the pint of mint chocolate chip).
You Can’t Stop Yourself from Eating
You eat even when you are not hungry, and you continue to eat even when you are full and should have stopped a long time ago. Your desire to eat seems to have taken a life of its own. At times you would even go out of the way just to get food or to satisfy a particular craving, even though you may not be hungry at all.
You Have Random Cravings
Sometimes, you get urges to eat a certain food, which you can’t explain yourself. And it’s not even that your hungry. It’s just a craving, which you must satisfy, else you’ll feel unhappy for the rest of the day.
You Think of Eating After Eating
So, even though you’ve just had your meal and your tummy is nice and full… you continue to think about food. You think about what to eat for the next meal right after you’ve finished eating. You cannot wait till it’s time to eat again. You think about how satisfied you’ll be when you finally get to eat. You count down to the next mealtime.
You are Fascinated with Eating and/or Food
We all love a delicious meal and appreciate good food, but this is something a little different. You love food. You love to eat. When you’re not eating, you can’t help but think about food. When you’re eating, it’s like you are in wonderland.
You Eat to Feel Happy
You are emotionally dependent on food, relying on it for happiness. You derive positive emotions from eating, even though it’s nothing more than a neutral activity to help you live.
Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behaviour with ice cream? These habits can often carry over into adulthood. Or your eating may be driven by nostalgia – for cherished memories of baking cooking with your mum or helping dad with the BBQ.
Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. Now this isn’t always an issue as a lot of us tend to take it a little far on a night with our friends. The sign here is if you are overeating in social situation our of nervousness and anxiety.
You Feel Guilt or Shame about Eating
With diet culture in today’s society, most of us can feel guilty about a cheat meal here and there, however this is a little bit different with emotional eating. If you are emotionally eating, you will notice intense feelings of guilt or shame during the eating and afterwards and often it can prompt another binging event.
So, we have listed 10 signs to look for if you think you might be emotionally eating but you are probably wondering… what do I do now? Whilst we initially recommend seeking professional advice on emotional eating here are some tips to see you through till then. If you are depressed or lonely, call someone who makes you feel better or go for a walk with a friend. If you are anxious, get rid of that nervous energy by dancing to your favourite song. If you are bored, read a good book, watch a movie, explore the outdoors or make plans with your friends. When the cravings hit, pause and check in with yourself and realise that you do have the willpower to push past it.
Explore more of our articles about mindfulness here.