Emotional eating, what’s eating you? Part 1

Do you find yourself turning to food when stressed? Do you find yourself automatically scouring the pantry or fridge when bored? Do you seek comfort in food when sad?

These are scenarios many of us will be familiar with and possibly even concerned about…..and these are all examples of emotional eating. Finding comfort in food and eating when experiencing emotional distress is quite normal as most of us naturally find some level of comfort from eating, however, if you have concerns regarding your own patterns of emotional or stress eating, or if disturbed eating occurs regularly for you, you may like to consider the following.

Eating our emotions can not only lead to negative health issues associated with being overweight, but it can also lead to Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and this cycle of experiencing emotional distress, and comfort eating can remain untouched if other more healthy ways of coping with emotions are not discovered.

Emotional Eating relates to soothing emotions and seeking comfort in food when we are unable to self soothe, or do not know what to do with the emotions, even if we don’t realise specifically why we are eating or what emotion we are having difficulty with processing. Unfortunately, in our society we are schooled to want to ‘get rid’ of uncomfortable emotions or feelings quickly, but sometimes what we need most is to sit with the emotion long enough to let it pass.

Sadness, financial stressors, relationship issues, anger, boredom, pressure from work or with study, loneliness, or even anxiety are common difficulties and examples clients present with in therapy before, or when exploring the relationship between their concerns with their eating habits and lack of control surrounding them, and the nature of their unresolved emotional distress. In particular, low mood and anxiety can trigger over eating, especially when an individual associates food with being a ‘reward.’

Am I an Emotional Eater?

Typically, signs to look out for to determine whether you are emotionally eating are as follows:
1. Eating to the point of feeling uncomfortably full
2. Gaining weight and not knowing why
3. Feeling as if you cannot control what or how much you are eating
4. Craving and eating energy rich foods
5. Feeling upset or guilty after binge eating, or hiding your eating habits/feeling ashamed of them
6. Eating even when not hungry
7. Binge eating at least once per week over an extended period of time

Look out for my next blog focussing on how and why we develop a cycle of emotional eating, and my top three tips to help recognise and manage these behaviours

If you or someone you love is having issues with emotional eating, restrictive eating  or other disturbed eating patterns, please reach out for support or further information from Alyce by contacting Attuned Psychology on 8361 7008.

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