The natural reason for eating is hunger. It is also normal to eat for pleasure as it happens on special occasions. When eating is persistently motivated by negative reasons, then this becomes a health issue. This problem is a recognized medical disorder referred to as emotional eating disorder.
Emotional eating affects people of all ages and gender. Apart from its psychological effects, this problem can lead to an increased risk of obesity and subsequent cardiovascular and metabolic problems such as diabetes. Studies indicate that there is a yet to be understood connection between our feelings and food. Common negative triggers of emotional eating include:
- Perception problems about body appearance
- Persistent stress
- Chronic worrying
- Race or ethnicity
Some of these factors can occur together. Identifying this early is important for effective management of this disorder.
Measures to tackle emotional eating
There are measures you can take at home to stop emotional eating. They include what some authorities refer to as mindful eating. This include:
- Identify what triggers your eating. It is possible to know conditions that push you to eat. Reflect on the previous episodes and recognize the symptoms moved you to unplanned eating.
- Emotional eating usually involves fatty and sugary foods. Remove these from your easy reach.
- Do something to counteract the urge to eat. These mean taking a walk or engaging in some other light exercises. Try to move away from the food’s vicinity physically.
- Consciously take small meals. Do this by using a smaller plate or serving yourself small portions of your snack instead of eating straight from the can or box.
- Break the tradition of wiping your plate clean. You can choose to pack any leftovers or using a small plate in the first place.
- Join a support group of struggling emotional eaters or those who have overcome the disorder.
- Do not isolate yourself. Loved ones can be a source of strength to beat the disorder.
- Reflecting for a moment on the effort that has gone into preparing the food you are about to eat can help you to eat mindfully. Studies suggest that counting your blessings has positive psychological and physical benefits on health.
When personal efforts are not working, it is time to see a therapist. This professional may be able to get to the bottom of the problem and offer professional guidance out of the emotional eating disorder.
Factors that may make treating emotional eating difficult
- Inability to identify or accept that you have a problem
- When eating is meant to be a source of pleasure
- Recurrent episodes of extreme hunger
- Keeping company of binge eaters
- Having issues with the way you see yourself
Despite these, emotional eating can be overcome with personal efforts, family or friends support and when necessary, through professional therapy intervention. A qualified person may be able to spot symptoms of impending or already established psychiatry problems associated with the emotional eating disorder and treat them accordingly.
- Psychological Determinants of Emotional Eating in Adolescence.Selena T. Nguyen-Rodrigues, Jennifer B. Unger, and Donna Spruijt-Metz
- S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Obesity Education Initiative. (1998). Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: The evidence report(NIH Publication No. 98-4083)
- Spruijt-Metz D, Spruijt R. Worries and health in adolescence: A latent variable approach. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 1997;26:485–501.
- Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Emmons, Robert A.; McCullough, Michael E.