Do you ever find yourself eating past the point of being full, or turning to food as a source of comfort instead of for nourishment? Do you notice that all this emotional eating is making it harder for you to reach your weight and health goals?
Emotions are our body’s natural way of responding to the world around us. They help us make sense of our experiences and communicate our needs and feelings to others. Emotions are also closely linked to our thoughts and beliefs, which means that they can be influenced by our past experiences, culture, and environment. Additionally, some emotions, such as fear and anger, have survival benefits, helping us to respond to potential threats or protect ourselves from harm.
Emotional eating can be caused by a variety of reasons, including childhood experiences, stress, boredom, loneliness, history of dieting and more. When you eat to suppress your emotions, your brain is flooded with happy hormones, like dopamine, that help you feel better - at least temporarily. However, it can have negative consequences if it becomes a habit.
Although emotional eating, is typically seen as a negative coping mechanism, it can be viewed from a different angle. It's crucial to understand that it is also a response to our body's demand for comfort and solace.
Please remember that emotional eating does not define who you are, regardless of its duration, and it can be managed by understanding the underlying causes.
To truly heal emotional eating and achieve lasting change, you need to stop self-attack, blame, and shame. Instead, cultivate a mindset of curiosity, openness, and compassion. By embracing these qualities, you pave the way for a transformative journey towards a healthier relationship with food.
The goal is to become more aware of emotional eating and take steps to regulate it. Being able to recognize the connections between emotions and eating habits can help you make better decisions about food and ultimately improve your relationship with food and life in general.
As an Eating Psychology Coach and Nutritionist, I never separate the physiology (Body) from the psychology (Mind) when working with clients, because I recognize that the Body and the Mind indeed exist on a continuum.
There are two main types of hunger: physical and emotional hunger
Physical hunger typically builds up gradually, and you might experience physical symptoms like stomach growling, lightheadedness, or a headache. It is the body's natural response to a lack of food. This is caused by a decrease in blood sugar levels, which triggers the release of hormones that signal the brain to produce hunger sensations.
It is possible to experience physical hunger despite having 3 or 5 meals a day. From a nutritional perspective, the meals might not be well-balanced, they might lack nutrient density, or individuals might have chronically low levels of vitamins and minerals. These aspects can be assessed and addressed during the consultation.
Emotional hunger is the urge to eat that comes on suddenly and strongly and is not tied to the body's biological needs. It's driven by emotions like stress, sadness, boredom, or even happiness. This means that it's important to understand whether you're physically hungry or just responding to emotional triggers.
There is a wisdom to our compulsions that cannot be escaped. Emotional eating is a symptom simply pointing you to the areas in life that need to be healed.
Emotional hunger is often triggered by food associations
Our brains are wired to create associations between events and objects. For example, if you've always eaten a certain food when you feel stressed out, your brain can create a powerful link between that food and the feeling of stress. This association can cause us to crave that food whenever we feel stressed, even if we're not physically hungry. Understanding what triggers your emotional hunger can help break these associations and help you make healthier choices.
Emotional hunger is usually temporary
Emotional hunger is usually temporary and often disappears once our minds perceive that we've satisfied it. Physical hunger can be more persistent, and it won't go away until we eat substantial food. People tend to eat more food than they need under emotional hunger while fulfilling physical hunger usually takes a lesser quantity of food.
The first step in overcoming emotional eating is to become aware of your emotions. Mindfulness practice can help you identify when you're stressed, anxious, bored, sad, lonely, etc. By slowing down and paying attention to the sensations in your body, you can recognise the signals that trigger your desire to eat. Mindfulness can also help you differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger.
If you think you might need help in this area, below I have outlined a simple guide, so you can start exploring your appetite throughout the day and - if you are ready, tune into your emotions to better understand yourself and identify the areas in life that require your attention.
Dealing With Emotional Hunger
Next time you feel like you are about to eat, despite feeling full, take a piece of paper and write down the answers to the questions listed below. The key here is to slow down, step into your awareness and notice how you feel. Do this exercise as often as you need. You will make some important discoveries.
How do you feel just before the desire to eat kicks in? Do you feel lonely, sad, angry, tired, excited? If you are experiencing some kind of discomfort, tune into your body and mind and try to figure out what it is. You may want to spend some time alone and journal whatever comes to your mind.
Ask yourself: Do I really want to eat it right now?
If the answer is YES: how do you feel just after you decide to eat something?
If you took that first bite: how do you feel?
If you took more bites: how do you feel now?
And then, how do you feel half an hour later?
Finally, how do you feel the next day?
If you are tired of the endless cycle of dieting and emotional eating and you would like to take a different approach to your health, book a 30-minute FREE Health Review. I believe in a no-diet approach to weight loss, focusing instead on nourishment and sustainable methods that are backed by science. My goal is not just to help you lose weight, but also to improve your overall health and promote food freedom. I will guide you towards a healthier and happier lifestyle. If you are ready to take the first step towards your health journey, schedule your Free Health Review today.