Dangers of Emotional Eating

Dangers of Emotional Eating

There a number of unhealthy habits that can develop over time if you are not mindful of your eating habits. One very easy unhealthy habit to fall into is emotional eating. This can go unnoticed because it’s not widely thought of as dangerous compared to other life threatening habits such as illegal drug use, and many can easily find excuses for it like saying they can simply “exercise more later.” How serious is this issue? Can eating habits really be a danger to you? We’ll be exploring some of these that in the following article.

Awareness is Key

Emotional eating usually hits very suddenly out of nowhere and seeks out specific cravings to be filled. Often times these powerful cravings are for sugar and fat filled snacks because of the powerful rush of dopamine that turns on the reward and pleasure centers of the brain after consumption. Eating like this repeatedly eventually overrides the signals of hunger and satiety. Seeking out comfort food and this kind of gratification leads to overeating and morbid obesity. Children can also develop early obesity when they learn this type of self-soothing. Many snack foods (especially candy and baked goods) are marketed to children. Some other snacks are associated with memories of fun times, childhood, or loved ones. Unfortunately, the methods that are used to produce foods of these foods typically contain high levels of salt, sugars, fats, artificial colors and preservative agents.

It is an Unhealthy Way to Cope with Emotions

Emotional eating is often used as a way to avoid dealing with complex or negative emotions. Not every trigger will be the same for each person, but these could include a range of emotions and feelings including anxiety, boredom, loneliness, disgust, sadness, and even joy. The emotional danger is the continued neglect of the real reasons behind these emotions. A feeling of shame or guilt might follow binges. This is especially true when the behavior is hidden from friends or family. Seek professional help, or tell a trusted friend or relative if you feel isolated or lonely and are forming unhealthy eating habits.

There are Health Risks

If a person uses eating as a way to escape or distract their emotions, a vicious cycle can develop. For example, a person who seeks food to cope with stress will create a paradox where weight-related health issues arise like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and back or joint pain. Beyond the difficulties surrounding obesity,  other health issues such as insomnia, anxiety, malnutrition, digestive problems, menstrual problems, and depression can develop.

Tips to overcome Emotional Eating

If you are overeating and appear to be experiencing any of these symptoms or health problems, it is never too late to make a new choice. After tapping into your support system, here are a few other ways to get back on track:

  • Keep a food diary – even if you use an online one like https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
  • Tame your stress – be intentional about your stress relieving activities. Find some ideas for creating a stress-free environment here
  • Remove temptation – Don’t have a cupboard full of junk food and do not go grocery shopping until your emotions are in check
  • Have healthy options on hand – When you feel the urge to snack in between meals, have something good and healthy like fruit, nuts, vegetables, or lower calorie versions of your favorite snacks
  • Give yourself a break – Don’t punish or deprive yourself. Even if you make a mistake—forgive yourself and recommit to start fresh again. Learn from your experience and plan to do better. Let your support system know that you are serious about changing it and ask for their assistance when needed.
  • Resources:
    Mood, food and obesity. Frontiers in Psychology. September 1, 2014.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4150387/
  • Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047342?pg=2

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