What is Emotional Eating and How to Overcome It?

What is Emotional Eating and How to Overcome It?

Researchers by Harvard University made a study to work out the genetic component for losing weight and found out that the problem did not lie with the diet but with emotional eating. For people suffering from emotional eating, here are three simple steps:

  1. Break the on/off diet mindset.
  2. Learn from previous experience.
  3. Recognize what drives you to food and face that.

For those of you who do not know what emotional eating is and to what extent it could harm your health; let’s first learn about the curse of emotional eating

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating – also known as stress eating – is why you can’t keep up with your diet and eventually end up gaining weight. If you are not in the habit of emotional overeating, then you take your meals due to physical hunger. But if you tend to indulge in emotional binge eating, then you eat due to emotional hunger. Emotional hunger is not a form of hunger but a psychological problem that results in an emotional eating disorder. 

Many of us see food as a method to soothe our feelings and provide oneself emotional comfort. When we eat to satisfy emotional needs, relieve stress, or cope with unsettling emotions like sadness, loneliness, or boredom, we do not merely eat out of hunger but due to a psychological mindset. This mindset signals the brain that eating a slice of pizza, munching on a croissant (or two), or eating that leftover ice-cream in the freezer will help you feel better.

Fun fact? It does, at least for some time.

Eating food releases a hormone in your body called dopamine. Dopamine improves your mood and makes you feel better. Unfortunately, this improvement is short-lived and when the adrenaline dies down you feel guilty and shameful for messing up your diet. The practice of finding comfort in food is called emotional eating


What Causes You to Eat More Emotionally?

eating disorder

Emotional eating is not a matter of discipline but a psychological issue. Here are 4 reasons why we think you overeat emotionally.

Unconscious Eating

Emotional eating could be a result of not knowing why you are eating what you are eating. This is called unconscious eating. Do you ever finish your meal but continue to pick at the food? Yup, that’s a sign of unconscious eating. To be mindful of what you eat is the ultimate solution to unconscious eating. Know how much you need to maintain your diet, and only eat the fixed portion of your meal.

Comfort Food

Whenever we feel sad or frustrated, a lot of us tend to turn to food. There’s usually a certain meal we call comfort food and we always turn to it in times of emotional crisis. The solution to comfort eating problem is to find other ways you can comfort yourself besides food.

Impatience with Feelings

We have learned earlier in our life to avoid things we feel bad or confused about. Unfortunately, we develop a habit to distract ourselves from complicated feelings which is not always in our best interest. People who cannot tolerate uncomfortable feelings are more susceptible to stress eating. 

Wondering how to control stress eating? The answer is simple. Face your feelings. The more you face your feelings, the less you will feel the need to turn to food and resort to emotional binge eating

Body Hate

Directing hate towards your body is one of the biggest factors that contribute to an emotional eating disorder.

Unfortunately, there is not one solution to this problem. It is a continuous process to be able to learn to love yourself the way you are. 


What Are the Effects of Emotional Eating?

emotional eating

Emotional overeating can result in emotional eating disorders and feelings of guilt and shame. Below we have discussed a few results of stress eating.


Once you have satiated your emotional appetite with food, there’s usually a sense of guilt over the amount of food you have consumed. This guilt can make emotional trauma worse and lead to low self-esteem. Emotional overeating is a vicious cycle that repeats itself


Overeating often leads to feeling stressed which in turn triggers nausea. Indulging in too much food can also cause stomach pains which again causes nausea. You may find yourself feeling nauseated even days after consuming a large quantity of food. 

Weight Gain

Constant emotional eating can bring a drastic change to your weight and give way to health problems. Certain health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatigue are examples of overeating. 


Emotional Hunger vs. True Hunger

A lot of people suffering from emotional hunger wonder how to overcome emotional eating. There are several clear differences that may help you differentiate between true hunger and emotional hunger.

True HungerEmotional Hunger
Develops with time.It comes about abruptly.
You want different food groups.You only want a certain food group.
You stop once you feel you are full.You binge on food even after you feel full.
You do not feel bad after eating.You feel guilty after eating.


How to Stop Emotional Eating?

Research proves that emotional eating is a psychological disorder. We have figured out a few ways to help you control stress eating.

  • Emotional eating cannot be quelled alone by eating. You need to address the stress and feelings that cause the urge to overeat. 
  • Find other ways to cope rather than turning to food for comfort.
  • Exercise. Some people tend to find relief from emotional distress through exercise. Try to exercise, jog, or take a simple walk around the block to clear your mind.
  • Practices like meditation have been known to relieve people from stress. The psychology of emotional eating involves stress related issues. This is why finding different ways to relieve stress may help you overcome stress eating.
  • Question yourself whether you really need to eat or you’re just eating out of habit. Try to eat fixed portions of food at a fixed time so you do not indulge in overeating. 


When to Seek Professional Help?

If you have tried to help yourself but you still cannot handle your habit of emotional eating, then it is time to seek professional therapy. Therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and develop habits to help you cope with it. Therapy can also help you discover the real reason behind your stress eating disorder.

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