Signs Of Emotional Eating
Is your emotional eating beginning to feel like it’s getting out of control?
Chances are, it already has been for a while now.
Emotional eating is when you find yourself grasping for food when you aren’t hungry.
If you aren’t hungry, you are just eating to entertain yourself, distract yourself, or somehow comfort yourself through the consumption of food.
This is a practice that is extremely common across our society, but it has its obvious downsides.
First and foremost, when we eat out of boredom or because we’re upset, that typically leaves us over-eating and reaching for foods that aren’t exactly nutritional.
Rather, we’ll opt for comfort foods, like biscuits, chocolates, and all those unhealthy snacks that you know better about eating (and buying to begin with).
But, since emotional eating is far from rational, there’s no way you’d reach for a stalk of celery next time you’re sad.
The solution to emotional eating, however, is not trying to change your diet or teaching yourself to opt for healthier choices.
That’s because the key to ending your emotional eating once and for all is to stop eating all together unless you really are hungry.
Obviously, that’s a very difficult thing for anyone to do–especially since emotional eating is engrained so deeply within many of our lifestyles.
Contrary to popular belief, your emotional eating isn’t necessarily tied to underlying depression.
Even the happiest of individuals can sometimes find themselves reaching for food when they’re bored, excited, or simply have nothing better to do.
While emotional eating can be linked to feelings of sadness, depression, and loneliness, it can equally as often be linked to stress and even a burst of relief that comes when you end a long day or complete your study session.
Food has found its way into just about every part of each one of our lives.
We eat to be social, we eat to celebrate, we eat to mourn, we eat to converse…it’s no wonder why emotional eating has become such a widespread issue.
If you’re finding it difficult to overcome your emotional eating, it’s probably because you’re approaching it all wrong.
Rather than trying to force yourself to eat healthier, since that will still mean supplementing your emotions with food (albeit smart choices of food), instead get yourself in the habit of always asking, “Am I really hungry?” before you eat anything–healthy or not.
Physical Signs of Emotional Eating
There are many signs to look for that can help you identify whether or not you are an emotional eater.
Feeling guilty after you eat is one strong physiological sign of emotional eating, but what about the physical signs that are most notable?
Emotional eaters tend to want to eat a very specific thing.
In other words, you aren’t physically hungry and in a state where you have an appetite for a variety of foods.
Rather, you have a craving for a bowl of ice cream or a big slice of cake or even a pepperoni pizza.
The specific food that you crave will depend on your favorite foods and what you associate with comfort in your life.
This craving, though, is worth noting. It can be difficult to distinguish a craving from physical hunger, but noting what food you are hungry for can help you identify emotional eating habits.
For instance, if you go into the kitchen really wanting a bowl of popcorn, that’s probably a sign that you are emotional eating (because you are lonely, bored, or feeling some other emotion).
To distinguish this emotional craving from physical hunger, simply give yourself a healthy food option and ask if you’re willing to eat it.
If you don’t want any real, nutritional food, this is just a craving and it should be addressed, not fulfilled.
This is an excellent way to check in with yourself before you eat and it can help you identify your emotional eating habits.
Another physical sign that you may look for is mindless eating.
In other words, if you find yourself using food to keep your hands busy or just to pass the time, that’s a major emotional eating symptom.
Unfortunately, we’re often programmed to do this. We grab popcorn when watching a movie, we grab a snack while we study, and we typically munch on something when we chat with others.
Identifying the times when you eat even though you aren’t physically hungry will help you overcome your emotional eating habit.
Finally, some other physical signs to look for include eating even after you’re already rightfully full and eating very quickly.
Both of these can be linked to emotional eating habits and tell you that there may be an issue you need to address.
Behavioral Signs of Emotional Eating
Are you wondering if you may be in the habit of emotional eating?
Here are 6 behavioral signs that accompany this bad tendency.
1) If you eat when you’re stressed out, that means you are an emotional eater
If you find yourself reaching for food when you have work, study, or exams on your mind, you may end up grabbing a snack subconsciously just to keep yourself busy, and somewhat distract/comfort yourself, as you work.
2) If you eat when you have a strong emotion, that means you are an emotional eater
Have you ever went to the kitchen when you suddenly felt anxious, tired, bored, empty, lonely, disappointed, say, annoyed, angry, or even happy or relieved
If so, you are using food to supplement your feelings.
3) If you eat when you feel down, that means you are an emotional eater
Burying yourself under a bowel of ice cream or a slice of cake in an effort to comfort yourself or seek solace from your feelings is not a good habit to be in and it can quickly lead to overeating.
4) If you can’t stop yourself from eating, that means you are an emotional eater
If you have find yourself going into the kitchen and eating anyways even if you already know that you aren’t truly hungry, that means you are eating just for your emotions and not for your physical body.
5) If you think about eating even when you aren’t hungry, that means you are an emotional eater
Let’s say you can control yourself and you don’t always give into the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry.
Even so, when food comes to mind at times where you are rightfully full, that’s a sign that you are an emotional eater.
6) If you get random cravings for food out of the blue, that means you are an emotional eater
These cravings may be completely random, and stem from boredom/depression, or they could be tied to a thought process or feeling you experienced without really realizing.
For example, you might begin craving cake once you realize you have nothing left to do for awhile.
These are not all of the behavioral signs associated with emotional eating, but if you experience any of these, you are likely an emotional eater and that’s something you need to address.
Psychological Signs of Emotional Eating
Every person reacts differently to the traumatic things that happen in their lifetime.
Some of these events can have a massive, far-reaching negative effect on multiple aspects of your lifestyle, including your eating habits.
But, not all emotional eating habits are connected to such a traumatic event.
In fact, your emotional eating could be caused by something as relatively minor and short-term as having a huge project due.
The psychological symptoms of emotional eating include feelings of guilt, shame, self-doubt, blame, denial, anger, shock, confusion, anxiety, and a variety of other emotions that may prompt you to turn to food for comfort.
If you have ever found yourself thinking about food or reaching for a snack even when you weren’t physically hungry, you are allowing your emotions to control your eating habits.
When it comes to emotional eating caused by a traumatic event, you are likely to find yourself feeling numb and withdrawing from the friends and family around you.
You might also experience physical symptoms, such as insomnia or even nausea.
However, no matter the cause of your emotional eating, the behavior itself typically expresses itself the same way: with mindless consumption of comfort foods.
Most of us have been trained by societal norms to use food as a means of celebration, mourning, and entertainment.
So, when your body finds itself feeling a strong emotion that it doesn’t quite know how to handle on its own (whether it’s complex depression or simple boredom), you are likely going to end up reaching for a food to distract or comfort yourself.
It’s simple to understand why we take solace in food if you just spend a few moments considering all the ways that food has become integral to major life events and even our daily routines.
A lot of our life centers around the foods we eat, and so our bodies naturally begin turning to it when we have an emotion that we need to manage.
Obviously, though, using food to manage our feelings simply isn’t healthy. That’s why it’s important that you recognize the symptoms of emotional eating and work to end it.
That will take a combination of addressing the root cause of the problem, your emotions, and also consider what you are eating when you do turn to food.
Simply changing your diet isn’t enough, you need to address the real cause of your emotional eating first.
The Difference Between Emotional Vs. Physical Hunger
You’re reaching for a snack again, but you’re not hungry.
Many people find themselves with the bad habit of emotional or boredom eating, but what does that really mean and what can you do to stop it?
Don’t Eat If You’re Not Hungry
Insulin is one of the primary factors that helps our bodies know when we are actually hungry and need to eat.
Unfortunately, people who eat a lot of sugar and those with certain conditions will find that their body is kind of stuck in the “on” position and they will constantly have mild cravings.
These people will struggle to feel the difference between the real urge to eat and a basic desire to eat as a means of comfort or distraction.
Hopefully you aren’t one of those people.
If you aren’t, your body will be able to tell you pretty distinctively when you’re really hungry.
That means simply asking yourself if you are before you eat anything will be enough to help you identify (and end) boredom eating.
However, what about those people who do find themselves struggling to distinguish between cravings and real hunger?
Here are some tips.
Limit your sugar intake
As you consume sugar, your body will have increased cravings and you’ll find it harder to know when you are actually hungry.
Don’t fill up on junk
When you are hungry, turn to fiber and protein rich foods that have real nutritional value in order to fill up your stomach with healthy calories.
If you are struggling to figure out whether you’re actually hungry, or just about to give into a craving, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes.
Sometimes we’re actually just thirsty.
Other times, you’ll find that it was just a craving and the water made it go away.
Wait before you eat
If you have a craving come on or you’re starting to think that you feel hungry, you can wait 20-30 minutes before you walk into the kitchen.
During this time, you are likely going to find something else to entertain yourself and forget about the urge to eat all together.
Overcoming boredom eating is no easy feat, but by working to make smarter choices about what you eat, drinking more water, and checking in with yourself and appetite before reaching for anything, you can beat the bad habit that so many of us have developed.