The scene seems usual, to feel nervous because of a problem at work, for example, if you devour a meal of fries, followed by large pieces of chocolate, you remember the problem and accept more food as if it is the best solution, you do not feel full, and do not want to stop, while the problem is not Still waiting for you.
Food generally makes us calm and relaxed, while we are irritable and energized when hungry, but is this enough to explain our desire – sometimes – to solve our problems and overcome stress through eating? Is it enough to understand why some of us consider food a safe haven in the face of problems? It seems to be more than that. (1)
Searching for endorphins
We have an instinctive urge to eat. When our energy stores are low, our bodies produce signs of hunger that prompt us to search for food. Otherwise, we sometimes respond to external stimuli such as the images and smells of food that trigger our desire to eat.
But let’s think about the internal motives, in fact, our desire for food is not always moved by hunger, it happens that we eat just to enjoy eating, or to feel better, this is the so-called emotional eating, a state in which we eat “refuge foods”, those foods which we take up in an attempt to test some of the feelings we have associated with them in our memory. We all have a repertoire of smells and tastes associated with feelings of safety or well-being since childhood, and sometimes food is our way to restore those feelings.
Added to this is an additional effect. When we face a problem or experience a negative feeling, the body demands a dose of endorphins, the hormone that gives us feelings of happiness and well-being, then your mind immediately turns to the foods that save the situation as quickly as possible. Foods full of sugar are ideal for this purpose, as they quickly stimulate the secretion of these hormones, and for many of us they are associated with happy memories, as the rewards that adults used to reward us in childhood for doing well or getting a high score on tests, for example.
After eating these foods, the level of glucose in the blood rises, and the body secretes insulin to deal with the excess glucose, and here the vicious cycle begins; The blood sugar decreases, so we feel hungry and crave sweets, and so we slip into repetition and lose control. (2)
Nostalgia increases weight
Well, we now know that there are psychological reasons for our appetite for eating, and stress remains the most important and most common of these reasons, as it causes real chemical changes, while the body’s response to stress plays a large role in the desire that we have to eat some food, as interlocking hormones secreted by the brain flow into the body . (3)
In the beginning, stress leads to a decrease in appetite, so that the body can deal with the situation. Later, if it continues, the body begins to release the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite and pushes us to eat sugary or fatty foods. Emotional eating from this perspective, then, is not just a lack of our ability to self-discipline or a lack of will. Oftentimes, the biggest problem is the inability to deal with negative emotions, which causes a temporary disturbance in the body’s chemistry.
Similarly, when we are tired, food seems to us to be a good escape to avoid continuing to work, and in return we are bored sometimes. It is one of the common triggers of emotional eating, some people turn to food when they have nothing else to do.
Add to that nostalgia for certain foods; Such as the ice cream that we used to eat in the summer or the baked goods we used to eat with friends in the winter, and social influences also have a role. Try to relieve stress and sadness. (4)
In a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology on the relationship between food choices and mood, Meryl Gardner, professor of marketing at the University of Delaware, USA, says that a variety of emotions drive us to eat, as well as a variety of different circumstances associated with our feelings.
Gardner’s study found a link between negative feelings and eating unhealthy foods, and conversely there is a relationship between our experience of positive feelings and eating healthy foods, Gardner added another element to the equation, which is thinking about the future. Healthier, it may be related to mood as well. We often think longer term and see the bigger picture when we are experiencing positive feelings, while we look for instant happiness without calculating its consequences when we are in a bad mood. (5)
Does food really make us feel less stressed?
There is an important additional point in this context. It is not illusory. Food makes us feel really better. Food has a power that gives us comfort and a feeling of containment. It may be due to the connection between the mother and her baby, but it is not only the case, the nutrients in food have a role in raising our spirits as well. Carbohydrates, for example, raise serotonin levels in the brain, which explains why you crave cake, bread, or pasta when you’re feeling down. The brain needs a boost of serotonin, and that’s exactly the goal of many depression medications. (6)
In a study conducted in Belgium on more than 1,400 children, and published by the newspaper “Eat Disord” specialized in eating disorders, it was found that 10.5% of children who suffer from obesity practiced emotional eating, which reveals the extent of emotional eating and its great impact on our lives.
Contrary to popular belief, emotional eating is not entirely a female habit. Studies have not shown a gender difference in emotional eating. When studying the matter, the difference was only that girls practiced emotional eating when feeling anxious, stressed or upset, while boys were associated with feelings of confusion and bewilderment. (7)
How do you face this habit?
The first way to resist emotional eating is to know the difference between it and normal hunger. The latter develops slowly over time, during which you will feel the need for a variety of foods, but on the other hand, emotional hunger appears suddenly and during which we crave certain foods only. Another difference is that in the case of normal hunger, you will feel full and this is a signal to stop eating, but in the case of emotional eating you overeat without feeling full. Of course, in the case of normal hunger, you will not have any negative feelings, while in the case of emotional eating, you will feel guilt or shame about eating.
Emotional hunger is not easily countered; You eat without feeling full, and instead feel guilty, and so other negative feelings are added that increase your stress in a vicious cycle that continues until you properly deal with the causes of stress and emotional needs.
The first step toward confronting giving in to emotional hunger is to identify its causes, triggers, and situations in which we eat for this reason. Do you want to feel relaxed or happy, or do you want to make up for a bad day you had? Writing some notes in this regard can help you identify habits.
Then comes the role of discovering another way to deal with negative emotions and trying to acquire new habits to overcome emotional eating. If you eat a habit at the end of a long, hard day to reward yourself, you will have to remind yourself of what you will be when your weight becomes ideal and your health improves, and if the reason is If you feel stressed, an alternative could be writing a journal, reading a book, or relaxing for a few minutes. It could be regular exercise, walking or jogging. Try a variety of activities to find what works for you. (8) (9)
Practicing yoga can have a positive effect in avoiding depression, controlling emotional and binge eating, and making healthy food choices. As a number of studies indicate, the regular practice of yoga has helped reduce levels of stress and depression, which are two main causes of emotional eating. Meditation and yoga help us in the consistency of our emotions, increase awareness, and enhance self-acceptance. Through these practices, we train the mind to focus, presence and calm, so we feel less stressed, This will affect our daily lives and food choices. (10)
Eating a healthy diet will also provide you with the necessary nutrients for your body, and will also enable you to easily distinguish between real hunger and emotional hunger. Also, make sure you don’t eat in front of the TV or any other distraction. Focusing on what you eat will make it easier to discover how hungry you are and whether you are eating to satisfy an emotional need. You can provide healthy snacks such as fresh fruits or vegetables to counteract the emotional hunger that you will distinguish well. (11)
Don’t feel guilty
Finally, what characterizes emotional eating is the feeling of guilt that follows. After realizing how you have given in to his call and eaten so much, think here that we are emotional beings by nature, and the behaviors we practice in response to our different emotions are an integral part of our instinctive survival mechanisms.
Eating is still a perfectly acceptable way to cope with disturbing or emotional feelings. It’s legal and safe. So, it’s okay to have a cup of hot chocolate when you’re feeling down because you haven’t worked out, or to bake a cake that fills you with memories if you feel lonely after moving to a new home. We invite you to sense danger only when you have only that mechanism for coping with your problems, and when it becomes what you do spontaneously and impulsively, or when it makes you worse than the one you were in.
The main idea here is to choose, consciously deciding that you will comfort yourself with food as an acceptable comfort mechanism, and at the same time making sure that you have other mechanisms for coping with your problems. (12)
- our moods, our food
- Refuge foods: when stress and nostalgia make you fat
- our moods, our food
- How do I stop stress eating?
- our moods, our food
- why we keep overeating and what we can do about it
- Psychological Determinants of Emotional Eating in Adolescence
- Struggling with emotional eating?
- Physical vs. emotional hunger
- HOW TO PREVENT EMOTIONAL EATING USING YOGA
- Emotional Eating: What You Should Know
- Why Emotional Eating Isn’t Bad For You in Intuitive Eating