Recognize Emotional Eating

Written by: Matej TuĊĦak, Ph.D.

Emotional eating can lead to the stage when we can't distinguish from physical and emotional hunger anymore. When we realize that an emotional trigger has just made us eat a meal, it's time to consider if measures need to be taken.

Regular emotional eating is a kind of addiction, which means we'd be better without it. To be clear, eating a big bowl of ice cream on a bad day is not worth the consideration. But when ice cream is the first thing that comes to our mind after a stressful event, it's time to take measures.

How to Differ Emotional Hunger from Real Hunger?

The easiest way to differ one from another is to recognize these indicators of emotional hunger and "real" physical hunger:

1. Emotional hunger can't be satisfied with food. This is why emotional eating wouldn't make us feel better, but we usually feel even worse due to bad conscience because of eating enormous amount of calories. On the other hand eating will satisfy the real or physical hunger and make us feel calm.

2. Emotional hunger appears unexpected, physical hunger comes gradually.

3. Physical hunger can also be satisfied by any food, even vegetables, while emotional hunger requires sweets and snacks. We feel like it's important for us to have pizza, ice cream or chocolate.

4. Emotional hunger can't be felt in the stomach, but in our heads, where numerous thoughts and obsessions, connected to food and feelings of guilt, appear.

How to Overcome Emotional Eating?

We can reduce problems that come from feelings of emotional hunger with some help of emotional relaxation and techniques that relax tension in our heads. I'm talking about methods similar to those created by 24alife professionals we named psychological exercises. So the first step to overcome emotional eating is to acutely eliminate tensions and negative thoughts. I welcome you to find them on 24alife web portal.

Emotional hunger mostly appears unexpected and that's why we can't rationally consider what to do in such a moment. Thus it's better to take a long-term approach and start to identify our emotional eating triggers.

When we know what makes us emotionally hungry, we should try to avoid it. In other words, behave in a way to reduce situations that make us "lose our heads". The third main step is to recognize our emotional needs and act in a way to make sure our emotional needs are satisfied. Unfortunately, that's the hardest part. It is often too hard for people that don't have enough environmental support or competences that could help them. Especially the latter probably need advice like this more. We would like everyone to understand that they can't find satisfaction or happiness by having many material goods, but rather by enhancing their emotional and interpersonal communication, looking for personal sense in life and living in accordance with one's values.

Everything else is life deviations that we can't entirely avoid. But they will continue to bring us restlessness, so it would be better for us to find a better way as soon as possible.