Do you find yourself eating sugary and fatty foods when you are feeling down, sad or depressed? And you are eating a lot more of it than you usually would eat when feeling positive, happy and satisfied? Then you are probably experiencing something called “emotional eating“.
Emotional eating also called “stress eating” where you eat food, especially high sugary and fatty foods, to compensate for your negative emotions. Studies show that almost every second person has already experienced some form of emotional eating which means emotional eating is something very common in today’s world. However, most people who struggle with it would avoid opening up about it since we are taught eating as a response to emotions is something bad and we should be ashamed of it.
Before I explain to you the 3 lessons we can learn from our emotional eating behavior, let me tell you the reasons that cause our emotional eating in the first place.
Why do we eat emotionally?
Emotional eating or comfort eating is a biologically normal response of our body to any form of mental stress such as sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, doubt, uncertainty, or grief.
We have to understand that our body’s main task is to keep us healthy and alive. Any form of stress, both mental and physical, threatens our body in its survival mode. For our bodies to protect us, they will do anything possible to keep us alive.
If someone experiences mental and emotional stress then our body automatically jumps into a stress-response-mode. This signals our body that our health is threatened and it needs to prepare for the worst. The easiest way for our body to protect us from negative emotions and emotional stress is to substitute them with positive emotions. This is achieved by eating food in the first place. Food, especially animal products, contains a certain amino-acid called “Tryptophan” which can help our body in producing happiness chemicals such as Dopamine and Serotonin.
That is the reason why emotional eating or comfort eating is not necessarily something bad or negative. In fact, it is something quite intelligent from our body to desire food to produce more happiness chemicals in our body to protect us from emotional stress. Stress eating is, for this reason, nothing we need to be ashamed of. It is just our body’s task to keep us healthy and alive.
3 Lessons we learn from emotional eating
Lesson 1: Dieting doesn’t work
Dieting and food restriction doesn’t work, especially when you experience emotional eating. Dieting and food restriction cause even more stress in your body and therefore it will only intensify your stress eating behavior. The more you diet, the more your body will long for food.
“If you can’t control food. Then listen to it. It is a teacher that teaches you important life lessons.“
– Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating –
Lesson 2: You don’t have a willpower problem
If you experience emotional eating, then please keep in mind that you don’t have a willpower problem. We constantly receive this message from the diet and fitness industry that we are not disciplined enough or have too little willpower to achieve our fitness and weight loss goals. However, nothing can be further from the truth.
Emotional eating is a natural protection mode of our body to make us survive. Our cavemen’s brain is not able to distinguish between us being stressed from running away from a dangerous animal or just worrying about why we don’t have the perfect body.
For this reason, emotional eating can often be the response to us being too disciplined and having too much willpower to achieve a goal that is maybe not even healthy for our body.
There is no reason for us to control our hunger and appetite because they control themselves beautifully. The only thing we need to do is to trust in our bodies. Every animal on this earth trusts their natural hunger feeling. No animal would ever go on a diet to lose weight. No horse would ever go on a meat diet and no lion would ever go on a grass diet. They trust their bodies without any doubt. So should we too.
Lesson 3: Food is not the enemy
Eating food, desiring food and having an appetite is one of the most natural things that we have been given from mother nature. Nothing can be more normal to having hunger and appetite followed by us eating food.
Our body needs nutrients and calories in order to survive. Therefore, fighting against food is a war that you are never going to be able to win.
It is time to come to a place of peace with food and acknowledge that eating food and having a hunger feeling is something we should embrace and enjoy.
How to overcome emotional eating?
As I have already mentioned above, emotional eating or stress eating is our body’s protection tool to keep us healthy and alive. If we fight our emotional eating behavior we fight our body’s protection tool but not the root that causes emotional eating in the first place which is our negative emotions.
Fighting our emotional eating behavior would mean we beat our head against a stone wall. Because the unwanted eating behavior will return again and again until we finally address the roots of our emotional eating. Once we uncover and change the negative sources in our lives that cause us having mental and emotional stress, the unwanted eating behavior will regulate itself automatically.
I hope this article was helpful for you, if you have any further questions, please write them down in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to answer them.
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