Emotional overeating is a destructive behavior pattern in which a person tries to cope with stress, fatigue, and negative emotions with food. Food acts as a source of pleasure and solace. You feel like your evening gets even better when you don’t only watch Netflix or play online slots for real money in South Africa but also eat your comfy food at the same time.
Unlike other eating disorders, the person doesn’t punish themselves or impose any restrictions. Although, when feeling heavy, they may regret and say to themselves the phrase: “today I ate too much – tomorrow I will work it off,” but usually there are no “punishments and work offs” for tomorrow.
How and Why It Happens
Emotional overeating in psychology is seen as a certain scenario, a pattern or pattern of behavior. It can be visualized as follows:
- The presence of a trigger: an event has occurred that causes discomfort and strong emotions (it can be thoughts, actions, reminders, news, boredom, etc.).
- There is a desire to relieve discomfort: you feel like eating something specific: pizza, cake, cookies, etc.
- Action: cooking, buying, searching for and ordering, eating.
- “Relief”: a brief emotional discharge (a kind of relief) occurs – combined with physical discomfort and a full stomach.
- The emergence of feelings of guilt (regret).
Understanding this pattern is necessary to get rid of psychological overeating, and to avoid negative consequences, including:
- Increased risk of developing restrictive eating disorders (e.g., bulimia).
- The illusion of a solution: switching to food allows you to temporarily forget about problems, but doesn’t solve them.
- The emergence of excess weight and health problems.
- suppression of emotions, decreased ability to see the relationship between situations and one’s own states.
- increased stress and anxiety,
- Creating a habit of eating to cope with stress, comforting yourself and calming yourself down with food.
Causes of Emotional Hunger
The emergence can be caused not only by psychological factors. The most common causes are:
- Physical (poor and irregular nutrition, sleep disturbances, hormonal disorders).
- Psychological (various emotional states: boredom, sadness, apathy, concern, anxiety, Dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction, etc.)
- Social (traditions, habits, etc.).
Examples of situations and states are:
- Sad thoughts.
- Unpleasant conversations with other people.
- Eating “for company,” for “decorum,” etc.
- Eating more food if the next meal isn’t soon enough.
- Procrastination, a desire to postpone activities (performance of duties).
- Constant snacking against the background of an uncertain situation and stress.
How to Fight and Get Rid of Emotional Overeating
To cope with the habit of stress eating, you need to:
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Identify what situations or states are triggers (see list above).
- Learning to understand, recognize and express emotions.
- Learn to distinguish physical hunger (emptiness and rumbling in the stomach, weakness, loss of strength (after eating hunger goes away)) from emotional hunger (desire to eat after stressful situations, wanting something harmful instead of or after eating, not satiated with the usual portion, constantly snacking).
- Create an alternative strategy to combat stress, fatigue, boredom (for example, now you won’t reinforce negative feelings with food, when you feel tired you will go for a massage, walk, take a bath, allow yourself to rest and sleep; when stressed you will keep a diary: write down the situation and options for its solution, if necessary ask for help from friends, relatives or specialists); if bored – call your girlfriend, do a hobby, read a book, go to the fitness)
- Observe the regime of sleep, food, activity.
- Ask for help if necessary (if you feel that you cannot cope on your own, don’t be afraid to go to a psychologist).