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Emotional Eating

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 

Many of us learn that food can bring comfort, at least in the 
short-term. As a result, we often turn to food to heal emotional problems. 
Eating becomes a habit preventing us from learning skills that can 
effectively resolve our emotional distress.

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. 

How Can I Identify Eating Triggers? 
Situations and emotions that trigger us to eat fall into five main 

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 a sporting 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 
Physiological: Eating in response to physical cues. For example, 
increased hunger due to skipping meals or eating to cure headaches or other 
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. 

How Do I Break Myself of the Habit? 
Identifying eating triggers is the first step; however, this alone is 
not sufficient to alter eating behavior. Usually, by the time you have 
identified a pattern, eating in response to emotions or certain 
situations has become a pattern. Now you have to break the habit. 

Developing alternatives to eating is the second step. When you start to 
reach for food in response to a trigger, try one of the following 
activities instead:

Watch television 
Read a good book or magazine or listen to music 
Go for a walk or jog 
Take a bubble bath 
Do deep breathing exercises 
Play cards or a board game 
Talk to a friend 
Do housework, laundry or yard work 
Wash the car 
Write a letter 
Or do any other pleasurable or necessary activity until the urge to eat 

What If Distracting Myself Isn't Enough to Keep Me From Eating? 
Sometimes simply distracting yourself from eating and developing 
alternative habits is not enough to manage the emotional distress that leads 
to excessive eating. To more effectively cope with emotional stress, 

Relaxation exercises 
Individual or group counseling 
These techniques address the underlying emotional problems and help 
resolve the original problem as well as teach you to cope in more 
effective and healthier ways. For more information on these techniques, contact 
your doctor. 

As you learn to incorporate more appropriate coping strategies and to 
curb excessive eating, remember to reward yourself for a job well done. 
We tend to repeat behaviors that have been reinforced, so reward 
yourself when you meet your nutrition management goals. Buy that blouse, take 
that vacation, or get that massage to reward yourself to increase the 
likelihood that you will maintain your new healthy habits.

~Author Unknown~




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