We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. We also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward.
Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. It usually makes you feel worse. Afterwards, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating.
Learning to recognise your emotional eating triggers is the first step to breaking free from food cravings and compulsive overeating, and changing the habits that have sabotaged your diets in the past.
If you’ve ever made room for dessert even though you’re already full or dove into a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better—eating to fill emotional needs, rather than to fill your stomach.
Using food from time to time as a pick me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted, or bored—you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.
Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you consumed. You beat yourself for messing up and not having more willpower. Compounding the problem, you stop learning healthier ways to deal with your emotions, you have a harder and harder time controlling your weight, and you feel increasingly powerless over both food and your feelings.