Bad day at work? Going through some issues in your personal life? Is your first response to grab the ice cream from the freezer or rip open that bag of chips and have at it? Human responses to stress can take various forms, many of them unhealthy. Whether it's anger, sadness, frustration, or stress that has infiltrated your daily life everyone needs to find an outlet to relieve the tension. Unfortunately, many people turn to food as their outlet. Binge eating or emotional eating can happen without you realizing how serious it can become. Understanding how to deal with powerful emotions, stress, and reactions can help you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating so that you can resolve your issues in a healthier way.
What Induces Your Emotional Eating Response?
Sometimes the most important question to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating?" In the case of overeating, especially if it's emotional, pinpoint your triggers. These triggers can range from internal feelings to outside influences. Some people eat to fill a void; when they're bored, have no plans, and can't figure out what to do with their evening, they may eat as a way to pass the time. Others may be trying to fill an emotional void due to loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes the root of stress or anxiety can be connected to your thoughts on your body. Having a negative self-image can cause a cycle of destructive behaviors that includes finding solace in food.
Other triggers can be social, such as eating to fit in or being encouraged to eat by those around you. Physiological responses such as headaches or stomach aches due to skipping meals may also convince people that they need to eat more to curb their hunger.
Identifying your triggers and analyzing the issues in your life to find the problem can be the first step in pinpointing the question of "Why?" To help keep track of possible triggers, keep a food diary and write down what you ate, when you ate it, and what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you experienced while eating. Once you've spotted the pattern, address what you can do to change your lifestyle, stress factors, and other things that may be causing the reaction of overeating.
Spot the Pattern, Break the Cycle
For many, emotional eating can become a routine part of getting through situations. To break a cycle, no matter what it is, you have to change the pattern of repetition. Simple activities throughout your day, even if they only take up a small chunk of time, can alleviate the urge to use food as a coping response and finding a passion can go a long way to avoiding the static cycle of negativity. Going for a walk, exercising, reading, talking to a friend, or finding a hobby can replace the tendency to choose food as a means of filling up the emotional void in your life.
Taking Steps for a Healthier Future
Nutrition should always be a focus when it comes to your everyday diet. By focusing on healthy eating and learning about what your body needs you can help facilitate the lifestyle change you need. A recent study by USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital recently revealed how a low-calorie, high-fiber diet along with the right behavioral counseling can actually increase one's cravings for healthy foods and minimize those for unhealthy ones.
While everyone responds differently to triggers and their surroundings, there are ways of overcoming emotional overeating and turning your lifestyle around. If you or someone you know struggles with overeating or emotional eating, learn how you can help that person reverse their negative behavior and deal with their emotions in a healthier way.