If you are an emotional eater or stress eater, you don’t eat only when you are hungry rather you eat when you are stressed, anxious, lonely, bored or depressed. Food is comforting you for a short time but does not solve your problems. Emotional eating is a common cause for overweight and obesity and if not addressed correctly can get out of control. Emotional eating is more common in women than men and can negatively impact long-term weight maintenance after weight loss.
The problem is that most emotional eaters turn to fatty, sugary and high calorie foods because they have low energy. The reason can also be explained by hormonal imbalance when chronic stress will cause over production of hormones like cortisol. When cortisol and insulin are off balance, they make you feel like you need to eat more of the energy dense foods. Replacing healthier foods like high fiber, high protein, low calorie foods can also help you crave less for high calorie, fatty and sugary foods.
Emotional eaters can also become binge eaters. When one consumes large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time and when eating gets out of control, there is enough warning signs that the individual may have binge eating disorder.
Keeping a mood and food diary for a week can help you see how much of your eating is stress related. Reflect on your diary and think about strategies that can help you cope with emotional-eating trigger situations without food. For example if you are lonely and bored during a weekend day, try to call a friend, take a walk or read your favorite book instead of turning to food.
Stress management techniques are highly recommended for emotional eaters. Exercise is still the best way to enhance your mood and feel more energy. Exercises like yoga, deep breathing, massage and meditation are great ways to distress. Planning what you do or eat when a trigger situation comes up ahead of time is also an effective plan to avoid eating when you want to eat for comfort not for hunger. In summary, you need to learn how to be in control of your emotions rather than being controlled by them.