The all-knowing dictionary defines “Emotional Eating as overeating in order to relieve negative emotions”. Emotional eating is, by that definition, considered a Mal-adaptive coping strategy, which is just a fancy term for procrastination and by extension, avoidance.
Male or female, there isn’t a person who hasn’t been upset with their break-up or other such issues in life to such an extent that they have wasted all that Kleenex money and gained all that ice-cream weight, metaphorically speaking.
Emotional eating and weight-gaining goes back centuries. Don’t think we’re the geniuses who started this little heart-warming, mood uplifting practice.
In 1837, bluesman Robert Johnson, with his song ‘Malted Milk’ established the certainty of emotional eating. The lyrics went “I keep drinking malted milk, trying to drive my blues away.”
Not the earliest evidence, this song. The earliest reference to emotional eating can be traced back to the Song of Solomon in the Bible. The proof here is the famous quote “… comforts me with apples.”
Now that we have established that emotional eating is prevalent everywhere, and for quite some time now, we should head to the part where I tell you how you can conquer emotional eating. Let’s face it, ice cream is awesome, but nobody feels good about the piling calories.
How to identify emotional hunger?
Knowledge is power. Before anything, one should be aware of what’s emotional, Mal-adaptive hunger and what’s actual stomach-grumbling hunger. Basic distinguishing points between emotional eating and physical hunger can be:
- Emotional hunger is extremely moody, urgent and sudden. You can’t pin exactly when it decides to make a celebrity appearance. Physical hunger comes on more progressively. Unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time, it shouldn’t feel so pressing.
- Emotional hunger craves specific stuffs, preferably fattening or sugary foods. Physical hunger is a lot more accommodating that way.
- Emotional hunger doesn’t leave much space for a scale, pun intended. It’s more about the quantity than the quality, and you usually can’t or don’t pin exactly how much food you’ve had in a short period. Physical hunger, on the other hand, leaves you aware of the quantity of food being consumed.
- Emotional hunger isn’t stomach-friendly. Even if you’re full, you keep wanting more and more. Physical hunger only requires appeasing till you feel full.
- Emotional hunger messes with your head. You don’t ‘feel’ hungry or hear grumbling noises being emitted from your stomach. But you do feel fixated on the aromas and the tastes of the specific craving. I hardly think I have to tell you what happens when you’re physically hungry.
- Emotional hunger makes you feel guilty. You realize only after having done the act that you ate junk for no real reason and that makes you guilty. But, it’s too late by then.
Getting rid of Emotional Eating:
So, there are 4 basic self-assessing steps you can follow to kick the emotional eating ‘habit’.
- Ascertain the causes that trigger your bouts of emotional eating. Identification is the first step to terminating the problem altogether.
- Hobbies almost always help when it comes to emotional eating. Hobbies cover all the causes from point 1, be it boredom, sadness, anxiety, fear, etc. Doing something you love or enjoy keeps the mind relaxed, ensuring these causes are rendered powerless.
- Cultivate willpower. If hobbies don’t help, it’s all up to you to stop yourself. Consciously avoid your cravings. Only time avoidance is actually recommended. Acceptance of your problem is key and will help you to cultivate the willpower to say no to emotional eating.
- Sounds “life-y”, but surround yourself with people you love and positive energy. This helps keep the mind healthy. Exercise on a daily basis to ensure a healthy and fit body. This is two-fold. One, you get an edge over your cravings and emotional eating. Two, a fit body allows little slips once in a while. (Totally kidding. Avoid slips, please.)
Emotional eating has been known to be one of the leading causes of obesity in people.
As work environments get harsher and competition is on the rise constantly, it is not a surprise that people resort to emotional eating to either escape the tensions by a little sugar rush or want to appease their mind for a short period.
It is also, however, very vital that people know how dicey it is for them to stress-eat, as it isn’t a one-time occurrence. This often prolongs and evolves into a habit and before you know it, you’ve ordered enough food for three just because your boss made you work late on a Saturday, which, God knows, is bad. But, so is emotional eating!