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Emotional Eating – Seeking fulfillment from your plate

Eating emotionally is about emotional hunger, not physical hunger. How to recognize that our hunger is triggered by our emotions?

Photo Credit : allthe2048.com,

 

How healthy and fulfilling is your relationship with food? Do you eat to satisfy hunger, indulging from time to time especially while embracing the festive season with family and friends or is filling some sort of void in life, the main reason you’ve been reaching out to those sweets inside your fridge?

We all eat emotionally sometimes.  It’s perfectly normal. Eating is by nature related to emotions. Good food makes us feel good and eating for comfort at times is perfectly acceptable. The problem is when we do it consistently and chronically for a purpose other than nourishment or satiation, to feel better, self-soothe, numb, fill a void, or feel some sense of control. Overall, when it negatively impacts our quality of life, serving as a coping mechanism for emotions that we don’t want to feel, it is time to recognize that we are in an unhealthy relationship with food.  

Eating emotionally is about emotional hunger, not physical hunger. How to recognize that our hunger is triggered by our emotions? It often starts suddenly, feels insatiable, wants instant gratification and inspires cravings for specific, often ‘comforting’ foods that are high in sugar, carbs, and/or fat. 

On the other hand, when we eat due to physical hunger, the hunger increases gradually over time and we get satiated by a wide range of foods. Typically we eat until full and we stop, feeling pleasantly satisfied afterward. 

Some signs of emotional eating include: eating alone or eating in secret, eating foods alone that you wouldn’t eat with others, hiding packaging, feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, shame, worry, or powerlessness, as well as digestion issues, difficulty sleeping, and weight fluctuation.

Why do our emotions crave for particular foods? It is known that carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels (serotonin is one of the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters). Also, certain fats can increase endorphin levels (endorphins are body’s natural pain killers). In addition, we relate particular foods with certain childhood memories which are linked to certain emotions. Self-medicating through food can be effective for many people. Food can be comfort, but also a distraction for painful emotions. As Dr Niru Kumar, a senior psychologist, states, “Any kind of addiction is a void which needs to be filled up. In the case of emotional eating there is an immediate rush of energy due to blood glucose increase. This makes the person feel temporarily better. However it is a viscous cycle. Increase in weight, poor health then leads to low self-esteem and again the person eats!”

 

When food becomes the coping strategy to help us distance or remove ourselves from emotions we don’t want to feel, it is essential to recognize it and seek professional help of trained mental health practitioners or health coaches who specialize in emotional eating and who will help you identify the emotions which may be the root of your hunger. “Therapy and family support may be required depending on severity. It is tough to break the cycle on your own. In such cases help is definitely required”, Dr Niru advises. 

Since emotional eating distances us from ourselves, it is very important to reconnect with our inner space through mindfulness, meditation and pranayama, journaling, or finding your own way to relax and decompress. Regular body activity can also be very helpful both preventive, as well as a supportive tool, and also your body by eating a healthy diet which provides you with enough nutrients is very important.


Tags assigned to this article:
emotional wellbeing emotional eating Dr Niru Kumar

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