Answer the following questions.
The last time you ate too much:
1. Did you notice your hunger coming on fast, or did it grow gradually?
2. When you got hungry, did you feel an almost desperate need to eat something right away?
3. When you ate, did you pay attention to what went in your mouth, or did you just stuff it in?
4. When you got hungry, would any nutritious food have sufficed, or did you need a certain type of food or treat to satisfy yourself?
5. Did you feel guilty after you ate?
6. Did you eat when you were emotionally upset or experiencing feelings of "emptiness?"
7. Did you stuff in the food very quickly?
Emotional eating is the practice of consuming large quantities of food -- usually "comfort" or junk foods -- in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions. Many people often turn to food to heal emotional problems. Eating becomes a habit preventing us from learning skills that can effectively resolve our emotional distress. Emotional eating can sabotage your weight management efforts. Getting a handle on your tendency to eat in response to emotions can be one of the most important factors in achieving long-term weight loss success.
Depression, boredom, loneliness, chronic anger, anxiety, frustration, stress, problems with interpersonal relationships and poor self-esteem can result in overeating and unwanted weight gain.
By identifying what triggers our eating, we can substitute more appropriate techniques to manage our emotional problems and take food and weight gain out of the equation.
Situations and emotions that trigger us to eat fall into five main categories.
- Social. Eating when around other people. For example, excessive eating can result from being encouraged by others to eat; eating to fit in; arguing; or feelings of inadequacy around other people.
- Emotional. Eating in response to boredom, stress, fatigue, tension, depression, anger, anxiety or loneliness as a way to "fill the void."
- Situational. Eating because the opportunity is there. For example, at a restaurant, seeing an advertisement for a particular food, passing by a bakery. Eating may also be associated with certain activities such as watching TV, going to the movies or an event, etc.
- Thoughts. Eating as a result of negative self-worth or making excuses for eating. For example, scolding oneself for looks or a lack of will power.
- Physiological. Eating in response to physical cues. For example, increased hunger due to skipping meals or eating to cure headaches or other pain.
To identify what triggers excessive eating in you, keep a food diary that records what and when you eat as well as what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you identify as you eat. You should begin to identify patterns to your excessive eating fairly quickly
Five Steps to End Emotional Eating
- Step One: Identify Your Triggers
- Step Two: Recognize Hunger Signals
- Step Three: Limit Trigger Foods
- Step Four: Don't Skip Meals
- Step Five: Create Alternatives to Eating