Psychologist Karen Graszer, M.A., L.P., shares strategies for emotional eating
What we eat is not always related to hunger. Sometimes the strongest cravings may occur when feeling stressed, emotional, lonely, worried or even bored. And when feeling distressed, we might use food to manage unpleasant emotions or self-soothe. Whatever the trigger, emotional eating is often impulsive and unplanned. People who eat emotionally are typically drawn to higher calorie foods, such as sweets or fatty foods, for comfort.
Eating something pleasurable can momentarily lift your spirits when feeling burdened or stressed. Eating can provide a welcome distraction from unpleasant emotional states like anger, sadness, disappointment or fear. Unfortunately, the effect is usually temporary, and often comes with the price of feeling guilty or self-critical afterwards, which can lead to more emotional eating. If repeated, this way of coping can become a negative cycle of unhealthy eating that leads to regular overeating and sabotages weight loss efforts.
If you think you might be an emotional eater, the good news is that you can regain control of your eating habits by trying a few of these strategies:
If you still find it difficult to control emotional eating after trying these strategies, consider counseling with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand factors that contribute to emotional eating, learn healthy coping skills, and identify if you have a mood, anxiety, or eating disorder, which can be connected to emotional eating. Getting the right treatment can make a big difference in your success.