Winning the battle between emotional binge and healthy eating

© IAN HOOTON/Science Photo Library/Corbis
© IAN HOOTON/Science Photo Library/Corbis

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2014 – That emotional eating, or eating when your upset, is one of the easiest ways to sabotage a diet and pack on pounds quickly is not new information. Eating in response to emotions has otherwise healthy eaters looking for foods that comfort, relax or empower.

Only the food we choose to indulge are usually high in fat, sugar and calories. Few people binge on carrots and celery to get over a disappointment.

Understanding and recognizing emotional eating habits can help you better understand, and avoid them.

What is Emotional Eating and Why Does it Happen?  

Emotional eating occurs when your body is overloaded with emotions and your body looks to food to satisfy your feelings. When you eat as a result of emotions you are doing it because you are stressed, anxious, depressed, bored or overjoyed, not because you are hungry and need to fuel your body.

How can you recognize your emotional eating habits.

Physicians recommend to look for the following indicators:

  • Emotional eating is a sudden, intense craving, physical hunger builds up over time
  • When you eat to satisfy your feelings you usually crave a specific food, like pizza or pudding.
  • When you are physically hungry you are not looking for anything in particular to eat, you just want to eat something so your stomach doesn’t feel empty.
  • Emotional hunger is intense and needs instant gratification. Physical hunger can wait a beat or two.
  • Emotional eating usually results in feelings of guilt after you indulge. Physical hunger does not make you feel guilty because it is seen as a necessary function.

But what makes us reach for the donut sitting next to the apple? Emotional eating leans towards indulging in comfort foods and the types of comfort foods we choose is definitely influenced by the emotion we are experiencing. According to recent studies happy emotions tend to draw people to foods such as pizza or steak (about 32% of the population), sad people crave ice cream and cookies (about 39%) and bored people reach for chips a majority of the time (about 36%).

Recognizing the difference between natural and unnatural sugars can help healthy eaters make choices that will keep them from feeling deprived by satisfying that sweet tooth but not filling your diet with just empty calories.

Pop Sugar writes:

Sugar has a pretty bad rap, and it’s not all unwarranted — studies show it may be as addictive as alcohol or cigarettes. Beyond increased rates of obesity all over the country, overzealous consumption — the average American consumes a whopping 130 pounds of sugar per year — leads to higher risks of type 2 diabetes, liver damage, heart disease, and even cancer. With these staggering statistics, you might be steering clear completely. But it’s important to realize that not all sugar is bad.

 David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, puts it best: “We actually need sugar; it’s our body’s preferred fuel . . . but we eat too damn much of it.”

Pop Sugar offers some great, and tasty looking, low sugar food choice ideas like this low-sugar strawberry banana cream treat that make a great donut alternative:


Recognizing which events, and they are not always negative, can trigger an emotional eating episode can help you stop the binge before it happens. Some common examples of triggers are:

  • Work stress
  • A promotion
  • The death of someone close to you
  • An engagement

Recognizing your emotional eating habits is only half the battle. Knowing what causes emotional eating you can control and manage your impulses and stop it from happening again and again. Physicians have discovered a number of ways to avoid your unhealthy eating habits.

•Find activities to deal with your emotions. If you have a tendency to eat when your stressed then try yoga to relax you. likewise if you eat when your happy make it a habit to go out dancing instead of out to dinner. Train yourself to look for things other than food to answer your body’s emotional call

•Pause before you eat. If you are headed to the refrigerator hysterical crying, stop before you open the door and really think about the consequences of what you’re going to do. People tend to not eat if they are made aware of the harm it can inflict physically and emotionally afterwards.

•Get support. Surround yourself with friends and family you can turn to at times of emotional highs or lows, it will make you less likely to binge. Talking out your emotions often validates them in a way food can’t, so if you have someone to confide in you remove the need to eat.

Some other diet saboteurs from Consumer Health Digest are:

  1. Skipping Breakfast: According to dietitians, breakfast stands out as the most important day’s meal; however, many people tend to overlook it however it is important to start your day with positive food choices.
  2. Binging on Food: Consuming huge amounts of food in one mealtime is yet another bad eating habit you should learn to avoid.
  3. Eating While Doing Other Things: Eating in front of a T.V, during work, while cooking or reading constitute to bad eating habits.
  4. Late Night Eating: Eating a snack late in the night is good; however, when you develop the habit of consuming a slice of pie or plate of cookies versus a health alternative you risk gaining weight/li>

Consumer Health Digest suggests that if you have tried any of these options and can not get your emotions in check talk to your physician and develop a treatment plan to help you deal with your emotional eating tendencies . Emotions are a natural part of our lives, but we control them-they don’t control us.

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