You had a tough day at school/work. You feel tired and not great. So you decide to make yourself feel good with food. Or maybe you had a fight with your partner or friend, you say to yourself you really deserved ice cream. And not just a little bit, but the whole box of ice cream. Or maybe you achieved something great and you want to celebrate it by ordering takeout and crisps. Doing this every now and then is not a bad thing, but when does it become a problem? When does it become unhealthy? It is a problem when you go to the supermarket every night to treat yourself or should you already be worried if you do this three times a week?
Note: Eating enough food is important because your body needs it to stay alive and to do things. Stop eating completely is never the solution. And yes, you can still treat yourself sometimes.
Signs you are an emotional eater
You get a lot of cravings
You are sitting on the couch and you are watching a movie and suddenly you crave something. You want food and not just a little bit. You want that whole bag of crisps. When you are an emotional eater, you most likely eat unhealthy things, like crisps, junk food, and candy. When you are craving you don’t want to eat grapes or an apple, you need an extreme amount of sugar. And you just don’t stop eating. You eat until your stomach hurts.
It makes you ‘happy’
When you feel down, there are several ways to cheer yourself up. Emotional eater picks food to cheer themselves up. And it works. That pizza made you really happy. At least, that is how you feel. In reality, it works for a minute and it is not true happiness. It is just a feeling of pleasure, which is not the same. When you start feeling down, you want to get more food so you can feel better again.
You eat when feeling stressed
When you had a stressful day, you feel the urge to eat something. Not because you are really hungry but because your brain wants it. Stress raises the cortisol levels in your body and that makes you crave something sweet, salty or greasy. But when you do this, you will get a boost, but the food is useless for your body. Your body needs vitamins and minerals too and you can’t find that in a bag of candy.
You have uncontrollable hunger
Suddenly you have this feeling that you HAVE to eat something and you can’t stop it. It is controlling you and you can’t stop this train of thought. You have to eat something. You run to the kitchen and find everything you have and you just eat everything.
I’ve learned that there are two types of hunger. When you are really hungry, that feeling will start slowly and it gets worse over time. But suddenly uncontrollable hunger does not mean you are actually hungry. Your brain is tricking you. It also feels different when you are really hungry.
You don’t even realize
Imagine you are watching TV and at the end of the movie, you realized you ate that whole bag of popcorn. You had absolutely no idea. You walk to the kitchen and you see an empty chocolate bar wrapper on the country and you don’t remember eating that. As an emotional eater, you don’t always realize you are eating too much.
How to stop it?
Okay, so you realize you might be an emotional eater. What now? There are a few things you can do to break this habit.
Ask yourself why you want that bag of candy. Is it because you are hungry, or because you are feeling down or stressed? Why are you feeling stressed? Is there really a big problem? Are there any other problems, maybe depression? Try to catch yourself before you open that bag of popcorn and ask yourself if you are really hungry or if it is something else.
Go to the supermarket when you are full, right after dinner or lunch. You will make better and healthier choices when you are full. Also, make a list of things you have to buy and stick to it. if you want to snack, buy fruit or a bag of carrots. This way you can still snack if you need something quick, but it is a healthier option. Next time you crave something, you eat a few grapes and your cravings will be over soon.
Find a different way to release stress/emotions
There are several ways to release and deal with your emotions. Exercising is great. Exercising will also release feel-good hormones. Or maybe you just want to put things on paper and suddenly realize your problem isn’t that big of a deal. Sometimes we make things worse in our minds. Or maybe you are feeling frustrated because you did not have a good night of sleep. Maybe reading will make you feel better. Replace your unhealthy habit (overeating) with a healthier one.
Call a friend
Call someone you trust and talk about it. Talk about your feelings and the urge to eat something. A good friend will listen to you and maybe distract you from those cravings. Friends are there for each other when they are going through a rough time.
Go outside or do something
If you realized you always start eating after work when watching TV, try to do something else. Read a book, hang out with friends and go to a museum or a concert. Distract yourself the next time you are craving when you are not even hungry.
If you have the feeling you can’t do this alone and you need professional help. Find someone who can help you. Find a professional you are comfortable with.
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash