Emotional Eating

How do you deal with feelings of anger, frustration, fear, stress, loneliness, conflict, depression or disappointment? Do you find comfort in food? Are you constantly on a diet but, never losing weight? When you feel frustrated or disappointed with events or people – is the answer to eat something salty or sweet?

If you answered the last three questions with a ‘yes’, maybe you be categorized as an “emotional eater”.

What is Emotional Eating? It is the practice of consuming large quantities of food – usually “comfort” or junk foods – in response to feelings instead of hunger.

Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by feelings which means that most of us are guilty of using food to cope with emotions.

Lisa was always dieting and always fixated on food. As an overweight child she regularly turned to junk food to relieve feelings she couldn’t deal with. But, overeating caused her more feelings of guilt, disgust and failure.

Maybe you can identify with Lisa. Though your eating patterns may not be as extreme – you might still be labeled as someone who “eats for comfort”.

What are the consequences of emotional eating? Basically, the comfort one finds from eating is temporary. Comfort eating does not resolve life’s issues or feelings. This type of eating leads to long-term consequences such as obesity, emotional instability, guilt and shame.
What are some practical steps to change eating for comfort patterns?
Start by logging when you eat and are not actually hungry.
Do this for one week. Ask yourself – what triggered my need to eat?
What was the thought, stress, conflict, disappointment, fear, anger driving me to food?
Write out in detail what occurred prior to eating for comfort versus eating for hunger. It may have been awhile since you actually ate because you felt hungry. Eating, though an enjoyable activity, should be based on hunger.

Identify any healthy coping skills you use in response to the triggers. Maybe you don’t use food for comfort all the time. How could you begin to use the healthy coping skills you practice more often?

Explore and deal with feelings: The next step is to implement interventions and a strategy for dealing with the anger, resentment, depression, low self-esteem, fear and stress underlying the eating for comfort syndrome.

Your feelings are indicators that something is wrong in your life. Deal with your feelings directly by asking yourself “what is the issue I am facing and is it valid?” Once you identify the issues in your life underlying eating for comfort – you can begin to work on healthy coping skills.

By Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC

Read the rest of the article: Curb Emotional Eating