Have you ever found yourself eating when you don’t actually feel hungry? Maybe you notice that your appetite significantly increases when you feel stressed or bored? If this is the case, you’re not alone. In fact, approximately 40% of people tend to eat more when they are stressed.

It’s so common that there is actually a medical term for it: Emotional Eating.

Many people don’t always eat just to satisfy physical hunger. Food is also commonly used to comfort, relieve stress, or as a reward. Emotional Eating is a response to the feelings, and in these situations we gravitate towards high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods with low nutritional value. For example, chips, pizza, ice cream and cookies.

Someone who experiences Emotional Eating uses food to make themselves feel better, but unfortunately it rarely does. In fact, not only does the emotional problem remain, but additional feelings of guilt for overeating also tend to arise.

So what causes Emotional Eating?

It is believed to be caused by a number of factors rather than one single thing. Here are some common causes:

– Stress. When we’re stressed, our body produces high levels of the stress hormone called Cortisol. This hormone actually triggers cravings for unhealthy foods to give you a burst of energy to prepare you for ‘fight or flight’ and make you feel good. If you’re unable to manage the stresses in your life, you’re more likely to experience Emotional Eating.

– Avoiding emotions. Eating can help to temporarily silence unpleasant emotions like anger, sadness, loneliness and anxiety.

– Boredom. Sometimes we eat to give us something to do. Food can be a way to distract us from feeling purposeless and dissatisfied with life.

– Childhood habits. Habits learnt in childhood can be hard to shake when we’re an adult. Perhaps your parents gave you chocolates when you felt sad, or rewarded good behaviour with a pizza.

You might be thinking how can you decipher between emotional hunger and physical hunger? Well, there are a few things that you can look out for to help you identify it. Firstly, when you’re physically hungry it tends to come on gradually and you feel like you can probably wait. With emotional hunger however, it is really sudden, it can be triggered by approximately 11 different hunger types, and you feel like you have to eat at once. When you’re emotionally hungry you tend to crave specific comfort foods, wheres when you’re physically hungry your appetite isn’t limited. What’s more, when your stomach is full, your emotional hunger isn’t satisfied like your physical hunger.

If Emotional Eating is left untreated it can lead to many complications such as difficulties losing weight, obesity, diabetes, depression and even a food addiction.

Managing the psychological part of any weight loss, weight management or healthy eating strategy can be far more difficult than managing the food and exercise elements. If not managed effectively they can become the blocker to you achieving your goals as well as potentially impact your mental health and wellbeing. 

If emotional eating is an issue for you, please get in touch for some support. The psychological process may be difficult to overcome but you don’t have to struggle alone, you can move forward to a healthier happier life. 

Head to www.daltonwise.co.uk for more information on the support available. 

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