Are you even hungry? No, but you are in front of your fridge! And yes, you are not ready to stop emotional eating. Something has to change.
As the world is struggling with the COVID-19 epidemic, many of us are feeling stressed. The World Health Organization published that uncertainty due to COVID-19 is leading to fear and anxieties as a direct cause of social distancing and the economic reality related to COVID-19.
The fight against COVID-19 is not only about our physical health but our mental and emotional health as well. Let’s start with food.
What is Emotional Eating?
What do you do when you are stressed? You eat!
When we are in stressful situations, we experience significant changes in our eating habits. Why do we eat when stressed? The main reason why we eat when stressed is to soothe negative emotions which can lead to binge eating and overeating.
Binge eating is characterized by eating a lot of food in a short period of time while not being able to stop.
The Biological Reasons for Emotional Eating
Eating can truly suppress negative emotions for some. Suddenly, after a cheeseburger, fries, Coke, and ice cream, you feel better.
Additionally, eating can feel like a distraction from the challenges of life and it can be a coping mechanism especially during these uncertain times.
You might know that stress is related to changes in cortisol which also plays a significant role in the regulation of energy. Have you noticed when you stressed you are never craving a salad? When you are stressed, you are craving fatty foods and sugar partly because your body needs more energy to function properly. Your body is sending you a signal that carbohydrates will give you more energy and there you are in front of a fridge.
What About Regret After Emotional Eating?
And then you regret it all. Once you finish your food, you don’t feel good about yourself at all. You might worry that overeating is becoming a habit and that you might have (or you believe you already have) weight issues. What to do? You need to address the emotions that lead to overeating or you will remain stressed, which in combination with junk food can lead to long-term consequences to your emotional and physical health.
How to Stop Emotional Eating?
So, you need to address your emotions, right? How do you do this? Pay attention to what’s happening before you open the fridge. Ask yourself: “How do I feel?” Even if the damage is already done, think about all the reasons why are you are stressed? What worries you?
There are always some triggers that lead to overeating and they tend to be the same for one person. Maybe these issues are work-related or family-related. Sometimes, triggers are internal such as worry about finances.
You have to take some time to put circumstances, feelings, and emotions into perspective. Remember that you are in control. Challenge yourself to learn how to cope with issues and tough thoughts and feelings. You definitely don’t feel better when regret kicks in, and you will develop an unhealthy habit of combining stress with junk food.
If you need social support, get it, especially in those moments when you feel like you need to go to McDonald’s right now. Also, choose healthy foods in a supermarket and plan your meals. At the end of the day, don’t be too harsh on yourself if you seek comfort in food. These are difficult times. However, even though it looks like you can’t control anything in your life, you are in control of the food you are eating.