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Understanding emotional eating and ways to overcome it

Jun 10, 2021

By Naseerah Nanabhai


Emotional eating is when people use food to deal with emotions rather than to satisfy hunger. Almost everyone experiences emotional eating at some point in their lives. But if it becomes a constant, especially unconsciously, emotional eating can affect weight, health, and overall well-being.

Common signs of emotional eating include changes in your eating habits when stress levels are high, eating when you are not hungry or even when you are full, and turning to food when feeling anxious or nervous. Even though one principle of intuitive eating is coping with emotions without food, it’s still totally not okay to emotionally eat.

Repetitive emotional eating can result in a whole host of weight-related health problems. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatigue are examples of how your body pays for overeating outbursts. The impact of emotional eating is quite severe, and you may find yourself feeling symptoms of nausea even days after eating a larger quantity of food during one short period.

Overcoming emotional eating involves practising mindful eating. This includes paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, by eating more slowly, chewing thoroughly, eliminating distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone, eating in silence, focusing on how the food makes you feel and stopping when you’re full.

Some healthier ways to deal with emotional triggers instead of eating include trying out some exercise, such as push-ups, walking, jogging, weights or cycling. Try deep breathing or using a stress ball. While this is not a comprehensive list, it does include some examples of ways you can cope with emotional needs without food. As you experiment, you might find other ways that work better for you. The key is to start!


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