Emotional eating is when you make a connection between: The food you are eating + Why you are eating it + How you are feeling
We all eat emotionally.
There are reasons to emotionally eat that can be healthy, especially when balanced with habits that are otherwise healthy for you.
- As a celebration
- As a reward
- For enjoyment
There are overindulgent and harmful ways to emotionally eat.
- Overindulgence or binge-eating
- To relieve an emotion, like sadness, worry, distress, or anger
- As a distraction or out of boredom
- Absentmindedly, because it is in front of you
- To procrastinate or avoid another task
- To gain a sense of control or reduce anxiety
Emotional eating is like everything else. It is important to find a balance.
Why is it so easy to eat your feelings?
There are 2 parts of your brain:
- The emotional brain, full of feelings and fight-or-flight responses
- The thinking brain, where you learn, think rationally, and react to stimuli from your senses
When the emotional brain is firing, the thinking brain is not.
When the thinking brain is firing, the emotional brain is not.
So, by stimulating one of your senses, and therefore your thinking brain, you stop the emotional brain.
The most effective way to stop the emotional brain is to eat something because taste is an easy and satisfying sense to activate.
But, unfortunately, eating to stop your emotional brain leads to emotional eating, overindulgence, and bingeing – and the resultant guilt and regret that follow.
The difference between emotional eating and un-emotional eating
When you eat food and activate your taste sensors, you distract the emotional part of your brain from heavy emotions like hurt, pain, loss, worry, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, shame and guilt, and you feel better.
- Comes on suddenly
- Feels insatiable
- Is specific, especially for carbs, sugar and high-fat foods
- Provides instant, but short-lived, gratification
- Is followed by feelings of guilt and shame
Two great blog posts on this topic is, The Good, Bad and Ugly Truth About Fats and 12 Ways to Overcome Your Sugar Addiction
- Comes on gradually
- Is due to hunger, not emotions
- Is satiated by a wide variety of foods
- Stops when you feel full
- Is followed by a feeling of satisfaction
The biggest problem with emotional eating is that the relief is short-lived and when the heavy emotions come back, you may feel inspired to take another bite and another…until you have eaten the whole thing and end up with a bellyache and a sense of shame.
When you feel full of heavy emotions and eat to get some relief, it’s OK.
But, it is also an opportunity for self-responsibility.
When you eat something to distract yourself and you feel a sense of relief, try to keep that feeling going without taking another bite of food. Say a mantra, take some deep cleansing breaths, have a quick chat with a friend, or step outside for some fresh air.
The more ways you can find to feel a sense of relief from heavy emotions without food, the less you will use food as a crutch when you are feeling emotional.
The Health and Wellness team at Amaze can help you get to the bottom of your emotional eating. Connect with us through your Amaze app, or call (720) 577-5251.