Getting to grips with emotional eating

November 20th, 2011 | Posted by natalie in Uncategorized

Our relationship with food is one of the longest standing, emotionally charged, highly satisfying but also guilt ridden of all our relationships.

Hunger is just one of the many reasons why people eat. It could be that your feeling stressed, angry or bored or it may be the start of a lonely weekend.

Emotional eating is when we use food as a way to deal with feelings instead of to satisfy hunger. ‘Eating your feelings’ highlights that food is a metaphor for all that we feel and many times all that we can’t quite say.

We use food to exert control over our lives, people attach meaning to food, for example we may have an emotional response to milk and cakes because they represent a nurturing time in our childhood.

Food is used as an emotional tool, it could be a way of coping or a way of rewarding yourself, but it has nothing to do with physical hunger.

Many people attach emotions to food as it represents a nurturing time. Such beliefs stay with us and we use food to comfort ourselves when we feel down or even to celebrate when we are happy.

How to regain control

It is extremely important to break this cycle, by learning to recognise the thoughts and feelings influencing our behaviour, which are leading to overeating.

It is important to differentiate between ‘head hunger’ which is lead by our emotions and tends to come on quite suddenly or actual ‘physical hunger’ which builds up gradually a few hours after a meal and when blood sugar levels start to dip. Ask yourself are you physically hungry or are you really craving something else? If you are looking for comfort or to relieve stress try to distract yourself by phoning a friend or having a long hot bath.

Keep a food and mood diary

Keep track of what did I eat today? when?, how did I feel and why?

Keeping a food diary will help you to identify any triggers that make you want to binge on certain foods. So when you feel like reaching for unhealthy foods reach for a pen instead.

Physical cravings may also be because we are addicted to certain foods; some foods make us feel better as well as worse. Certain foods react negatively in a persons system, which causes the person to over eat.

Sugar is one of the most addictive food substances there is, once sugar is ingested the physical craving to eat more and more is extremely intense. Even if you are trying to avoid sugar many ‘low fat’ foods contain more sugar than ‘regular’ ones to provide enhanced flavour.

Try chromium

Chromium is a supplement that can help you to manage cravings. Chromium has been shown to help control sugar cravings and reduce physical hunger by having a positive effect on blood sugar levels.

Be careful of mindless eating

Snacking on the move or in front of the TV means that you are more likely to loose track of what you are eating. Always sit down to eat if you can – studies have shown that those who don’t watch TV whilst eating, eat less – so turn the TV off. Focusing on enjoying your meal will help you to stop eating when you are full – distractions will make it less likely that you will notice when you are full.

Eat slowly

Research has shown that people who ate their meal over a period of 30 minutes felt fuller than those who ate everything within five minutes. Eating large quantities quickly doesn’t give your body time to properly acknowledge the food.

Build regular eating patterns

You need to have a regular meal pattern so that you do not get blood sugar highs and lows, you will then be less prone to cravings. Everyone should eat three meals a day, ensure regular fluid intake and choose foods that keep blood sugar levels stable ( protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates).  Eating healthy regular meals, which you enjoy, will help your weight to stabalise.

Do not skip meals

You are much more likely to over eat impulsively if you get too physically hungry. Avoid letting yourself get really hungry by having regular healthy meals and snacks that contain protein and belly filling fibre to give you sustained energy, making you less likely to binge.

For more information or help with breaking the cycle please contact

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