Are you frequently eating, even though you're not really hungry?
Do you feel the urge to eat when you're feeling bored or stressed?
If you are a habitual overeater, it may be due to emotional eating.
Emotional eating is a response to negative emotions, rather than actual hunger. Many people find comfort in food when they are distressed. Experiencing frequent emotional distress can cause emotional eating to become a habit, leading to weight gain.
Overcoming emotional eating is difficult, but you can do it. Identifying your triggers can help!
Physical hunger vs. emotional hunger
Try to determine if you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry. Have you gradually become hungry since the last time you ate (physical hunger), or are you suddenly craving something specific while experiencing feelings of boredom or sadness (emotional hunger)?
Journaling and mindfulness
Journaling is a great way to help identify triggers. Writing down your emotions, thoughts, and environment each time you eat can reveal patterns between what you're feeling and what you're eating.
Be mindful of your emotions over the course of the day. Become familiar with what feelings you experience on a day-to-day basis, and take a close look at the causes for these feelings.
Emotional attachments to food
Consider emotional attachments and associations to certain foods. Are there any foods that you are emotionally attached to, based on experiences you may have had in the past, or the culture you grew up in? When you are able to identify these associations, it can make you more mindful of why you're eating those foods when you're not hungry.
Some triggers are external. Think of times you find yourself eating when you don't feel physical hunger. Consider where you are, what situations you are in, and who is around you during those times. These may be very specific!
Overcoming emotional eating
Identifying your triggers can help you manage emotional eating, but it's also important to have support from family and friends. Many emotional eaters also benefit from seeking support from mental health professionals to help with managing emotions.
Emotional eating is hard to stop unless you can find alternative ways to cope with emotional distress. Journaling, meditating, exercising, and spending time with loved ones are all great alternatives. Overcoming emotional eating can be an arduous journey; make sure to be compassionate and patient with yourself along the way!