Apr 08, 2014 11:34AM, Published by Anonymous, Categories: Lifestyle
by Lisa Mobley Mullis, FNP-C and Kalie Bush B.S., Biology
As a health care provider at Absolute Weight Loss and Wellness, I have found that the most challenging patients to treat for weight loss are emotional eaters. A natural or prescription appetite suppressant will not be as effective for an emotional eater, because emotional eaters do not eat because of hunger. They eat because of stress, depression, loneliness, grief, boredom and many other emotions.
If you are stressed, do you make to-do lists? Do you meditate? Do you go to a yoga class or run a couple of miles? If you do these things, congratulations! No need to continue reading. However, if you are like some of us who turn to food in order to get distracted from feeling upset, or indulge in comfort foods to accomplish or maintain a state of feeling happy, then you are an emotional eater.
Experiments in animals and humans have shown that, for some people, food, especially foods high in sugar, fat, and salt, trigger the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin. Eating when you are not really hungry in order to satisfy a craving or accomplish a feeling of happiness is referred to as emotional eating. There are differences between being hungry (needing calories to fuel your body), and craving a specific comfort food such as pizza, ice cream, cookies, etc. Most people crave something sweet or salty once in a while, but an emotional eater will binge on comfort food to fill a void.
How do I know the difference between emotional eating and hunger?
Emotional eating is impulsive, while true hunger comes on gradually. If you suddenly think, “Wow, I really need a cookie right now,” that is not true hunger. That is a craving, and if ignored, will eventually go away. However, hunger will not go away so easily, and a truly hungry person is not usually very picky about what sounds good to them. So the next time you reach for food, ask yourself, “Am I hungry, or am I eating to fill a void or to comfort myself?” Emotional eating can create an unhealthy cycle: eating to feel better, feeling guilty about eating badly, and then eating more to try to overcome the guilt of overeating.
What can I do if I struggle with emotional eating?
Combating emotional eating involves strategies as simple as asking yourself, “How do I feel right now? Am I hungry or am I feeling upset about something?” If you are having symptoms of depression, guilt, grief, or insecurity, then seeking therapy with a licensed counselor may help you get to the underlying issues causing you to eat emotionally. Boredom can also be a reason for emotional eating. Try taking a walk, playing with your pet, reading, discovering a new hobby, or volunteering to help people in need. A proven natural way to release “feel-good” hormones is daily exercise, which will also assist you in your weight loss goal. Keeping a journal has been shown to help people release emotions. Another good idea is to avoid the temptation to emotionally eat simply by not stocking up on comfort foods. If eating is not as convenient, you will be less likely to indulge on an impulse. Emotional eating can be overcome by introspection on your own or with the help of a professional. Remember that small changes add up to big results over time.