Eating, while part of our daily routine, is more than just a necessity for some people. The “Foodies” delight in every smell and sight associated with the art of eating. Chefs use a sense of taste and touch to ensure everything they serve is cooked to perfection. And frankly, most of us just enjoy eating because food tastes great. Eating is something that can touch us on an emotional level, too. A certain taste could remind you of your Grandmother’s cookies. A strong, savory smell can take you back to a country visited decades ago.
Because eating is such a sensory, personal thing, it’s no surprise that many struggle with emotional eating. If you find yourself staring into the abyss of the fridge whenever you feel upset or stressed, you may be susceptible to emotional eating. Regularly letting your feelings guide your food can affect your health; serious conditions like binge eating disorder can be linked to emotional eating. Eating more food than your body needs can have dangerous consequences beyond just gaining weight. If you’re ready to take control of your emotional eating, here’s how you can break the cycle.
Learn to recognize hunger
Before you reach for a snack, ask yourself why you’re eating it. If you’re truly hungry, you’ll notice physical symptoms like a growling stomach or irritability (yes, “hangry” is a real thing!). If those signs are absent, you may be reaching for a snack to combat boredom. Eating mindlessly as an activity instead of out of necessity is a sign of emotional eating. Recognizing that you’re snacking for the wrong reasons is the first step in overcoming the habit.
Keep a journal
Take some time to create a “mood and food” journal. Write down what you eat every day, when you ate, and how you were feeling at the time. You might find that specific feelings like anger or sadness lead to overeating. Once you recognize your triggers, you can find healthier ways to deal with them, like taking a walk to relieve stress instead of grabbing a candy bar.
Build a support network
As with most struggles, surrounding yourself with friends and family who agree to be accountability partners can vastly improve your chances of success. You may also consider joining a support group to meet other people with similar experiences you can learn from.
Cultivate other interests
Is boredom your trigger? Find a hobby to engage in when you’re bored instead of food, like painting or playing a musical instrument. Stressed? Consider learning some relaxation practices to ease your tension so you’re less inclined to eat. Finding an activity that you enjoy can increase self-confidence, fill hours, and make you less likely to look to food to fill your idle time.
Get help if necessary
If you can’t control emotional eating on your own, consider getting professional help to change your behavior. A form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you how to change your habits and deal with unpleasant emotions in a better way. Medication like antidepressants and appetite suppressants may help as well. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn about more treatment options.
Interested in learning more? Our Health Library is filled with videos, healthy recipes, and the latest health information about weight loss and nutrition. Have a question or looking for an appointment related to weight loss or nutrition? Visit our Weight Management and Bariatrics site or call Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-227-8478 for questions or to make an appointment.