The Psychology Behind Emotional Eating and 4 Tips on How to Stop Stress Eating

Do you find yourself rushing to the kitchen to grab some food whenever you’re upset or sad? If yes, then you could be suffering from a condition known as emotional eating.

Finding comfort in food is common, and if you are a victim, you may unknowing be using food as a means of suppressing or soothing your negative feelings.

You may even feel shame or guilt after eating this way, leading to a vicious cycle of nervous eating and related problems like obesity.

Learn about stress eating, including why some people find comfort in it and expert tips on how to stop stress eating today.

The Psychology Behind Emotional Eating and 4 Tips on How to Stop Stress Eating

The Psychology Behind Emotional Eating

What causes you to eat because of your emotions? Anything from relationship struggles to health issues, financial worries to work stress may be the root cause of your emotional eating. Emotional eating affects both sexes but it’s more common with women than with men.

How is your emotion connected with food? Negative emotions make you feel void or empty. When you feel this way, you use food to fill that void by creating in you a deceptive feeling of temporary wholeness or “fullness.”

What you need to understand is that there’s a difference between emotional hunger and true/physical hunger. Here are the differences between the two:

Physical hunger

  • You have no ill feelings about eating
  • You feel the sensation of fullness and take it as a cue to stop eating
  • You desire a variety of food groups
  • It develops slowly over time

Emotional hunger

  • You feel guilt or shame about eating
  • You crave only certain foods
  • It comes about abruptly or suddenly 

How to Stop Stress Eating

Being an addiction, stress eating cannot be quelled by eating. While filling yourself up with food can work for a moment, the craving for food usually comes back sooner and the more you eat, the more upset you feel.

The cycle doesn’t end until you address the cause of your emotional problems. Read ahead to learn how to stop stress eating.

Find Other Ways to Cope with Stress

Finding other ways to cope with stress is the first step toward overcoming stress eating. You can identify some of the hobbies that can keep you busy or distract you from food. This could mean reading a book, writing in a journal, doing some artwork, or taking a few minutes to relax away from the stressful work environment.

It takes time to change your mindset from food craving to engaging in other forms of emotional relief, so you need to experiment with a variety of activities to find which one works best for you.

Some people find emotional relief by engaging in physical activities. A jog or a walk around the block or a quick yoga activity can help relieve your stress. Physical activities have been found to diffuse emotional states that lead to binge eating such as depression and anxiety.

 Start a Food Diary

Keeping track of when you eat and what you eat can help you identify the triggers that lead you to emotional eating. Take your time to jot down in a notebook everything you eat. You can as well use a food-tracking app to make your work easier.

While it may not be possible to include everything you eat, try to include as much information as you can and also record the emotions you feel at the moment you are eating the food. A food diary is important if you may opt for medical assistance since your doctor can rely on it to advise you accordingly.

Eating a healthy diet is another way of keeping emotional eating at bay. This is because it provides your body with enough nutrients that will naturally restrain your body from seeking more than what is necessary. Try to reach healthy snacks such as low-calorie foods, low-fat foods, plain popcorn, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Take Common Offenders out of Your Store

Once you’ve identified the triggers, you can take them off your food store. Trash or donate them to those who may need them. Think ice cream, chocolate, chips and other calories-laden foods like sweets or high-fat foods.

Keeping these foods out of reach may help break the cycle because this will give you time to think before you go looking for the food. Also, pay attention to the quantity of food you stock. Keeping large quantities of food in the house can encourage binge eating. Keep only what you need and measure out portions to help control your eating habits.

Get Rid of Distractions

If you like eating in front of the computer, TV, or while using gadgets like your phone or tablet, you may find yourself eating more than you need. Try to keep away from these devices while eating. This will give you time to focus on the food, your level of hunger, and the bites you take.

This will also help you discover whether you’ve been eating emotionally and it will help you in controlling the quantity that you eat. Some nutritionists advise that you focus on chewing food 10 to 30 times before you swallow it to give your mind enough time to catch up to your stomach.

Still Wondering How to Stop Stress Eating?

If you’ve tried the above methods and still find yourself binge eating, then you may need to seek support. Resist isolation in your moments of anxiety or sadness. Even a quick phone call to a family member or a friend can be a great source of emotional relief. There are also support groups that you can join.

You can also see a doctor if your eating habits are getting out of control. After diagnosis, the doctor may refer you to a dietitian or a counselor to help address both the physical and mental side of your emotional eating. If you want to learn more about how to stop stress eating, you can visit our blog.

Hey There!

I’m Heidi

Money saving Mom/Nan (Grandma) of 1, who loves to travel, cook, and of course spend time with family.  Fun. Travel. Food.  Not necessarily in that order. Serving Missouri and beyond!

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