Emotional Eating 101
It may surprise you that emotional eating is actually a part of normal eating. Most of us have all eaten for comfort at some point. Eating in response to emotions only becomes problematic when we are relying on it as our primary way of dealing with feelings. When food is our go-to coping mechanism, we may wind up overeating and not solving the underlying issues we have going on.
It’s important that we have a variety of coping mechanisms to turn to because food won’t change our underlying emotions. It may distract and comfort us momentarily, but we need to develop other practices for dealing with emotions if we want to learn how to manage emotions in a healthy way.
There are a few things that can put us at higher risk of eating emotionally:
- Lack of Sleep
- Inadequate nourishment
- Lack of Work-Life Balance
- Poor stress management
- Specific emotional triggers
What are some things we can do to start tackling recurrent emotional eating?
- Check in with yourself regularly and ask whether you are meeting most of your basic needs. Are you getting enough sleep every night? Are you finding time for your relationships and hobbies? Are you eating enough throughout the day? Do you often feel overwhelmed and stressed? It’s helpful to regularly evaluate these things to find out where you can increase self-care.
- Seek support. Lots of people struggle with emotional eating. If you find yourself in a pattern of emotional eating, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from a therapist, dietitian, or support group.
- Identify your emotions specifically. Often when we feel emotions we try to push them away or we identify them very broadly as “sad,” “mad,” “happy,” etc. There are so many different types of emotions though, sometimes we are not accustomed to using more specific language. For example, when you are sad you may be grieving or you may be disappointed, or depressed, though all sad emotions are different and indicate different needs not being met. When we identify emotions specifically, we can make sure to choose a coping mechanism that will be effective rather than just turning to food or other vices that won’t be as helpful.
I like to use this emotion wheel to help identify emotions:
Emotional eating is not a crime or a disease. It’s a normal, and sometimes even effective, coping skill! If we want to feel our best physically and mentally, it’s important to look at our relationship with food and make sure we are using a variety of healthy coping skills to work through our stress and emotions. What are some of your favorite self-care practices?
Some people may eat when they are anxious to try and calm themselves down. Others might eat when bored or lonely to fill the time. Some may eat when frustrated, stressed after work, or depressed. If you find yourself eating emotionally often, notice if its triggered by the same emotions.
At I Live Well Nutrition, we can help you feel free to pick the foods that honor both your health and taste buds. Schedule an appointment today! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more nutrition tips!
By Zoe Halbert – Zoe is a registered dietitian, licensed in Austin Texas who is passionate about helping people create healthy relationships with food and body. She focuses on intuitive eating with a non-diet and practices from the health at every size (HAES) approach when working with clients.