Emotional Eating: Know the Signs

It was a scene in a movie: A woman was holding onto a box of chocolates. She hadn’t devoured chocolates to mask her emotional pain for a few years, but this day she was tempted. She said that if she opened the box she would eat all the chocolates.

She held the box in a death grip as she agonized to a co-worker about whether to eat the candy and feel better or toss the box and continue being anxious and hurt. Finally, she tore off the cover and popped a chocolate into her mouth.

While chewing furiously she continued to talk and then popped in a second piece of candy. At this point, her eyes appeared blank. She was not even aware that she was eating.

This movie scene is a believable depiction of someone in the grip of emotional hunger, wanting to end the emptiness or upset with food.

Signs of Emotional Hunger/Eating

Frequently the craving is for a certain food. It could be chocolate, pasta, ice cream, or mashed potatoes and gravy. Whatever it is, nothing else will satisfy.

The hunger is in the head instead of the stomach. The mouth craves a specific taste, and thoughts about it consume the mind.

There is usually a sense of urgency. The thought of getting the food later or the next day does not fill a person with pleasant anticipation. There is an inner demand to have the food now.

The food is wanted immediately to relieve a difficult mood or feelings that are too uncomfortable. Emotional hunger is not about getting physical energy but about self-soothing.

Although there is craving for a specific food, the food is often consumed without thought. A whole box of candy or bag of chips can be eaten out of awareness.

Just as there may be no sense of eating enjoyment, there is no awareness of becoming full or satisfied. Emotional eating often continues past the point of fullness, resulting in physical discomfort.

There is inevitably guilt involved with emotional eating. So, though eating may relieve emotional distress, the person ultimately suffers from guilt and shame over what was eaten.

Most of us eat for emotional reasons sometimes. It is not a problem unless it is disrupting your ability to function at home, work, or school, or it is compromising your health.

There is no shame in wanting to feel good and enjoy your life. If you use emotional eating to accomplish this but want to live a healthier lifestyle, help is available.

With a deeper understanding of your emotions, and by learning alternative ways to manage the difficult ones, it becomes possible to say, “No,” to the cravings more of the time.

Photo: Px Here

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