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Help For The Emotional Eater

Posted Sep 06 2012 2:00pm

We all know that you must eat, in fact it is truly a part of life. Your body is a machine that is fueled by food. However, there may be times that you will eat more than usual and suffer the repercussions which may include weight gain. One of the many issues associated with food is emotional eating.

An emotional eater may see the end results when looking in the mirror or down on the scale, however it begins in the mind. One of the main culprits of emotional eating is stress. Yes, stress! It can cause many health related issues and one of them is emotional eating. When your defenses are compromised, your health takes a huge hit and so do your emotions.

It is evident that everyone has good days and bad days. Too often the bad days are dealt with avoidance or in this case emotional eating. The emotional eater is seeking comfort and will turn to food for the comfort. The food is a comfort zone and used as a coping mechanism that will not judge, hurt or deny them of their need. The eating process stimulates the release of endorphins much like exercise and the person feels better after eating.

So the emotional eater will turn to food to relieve stress. The emotional eater will hide behind the food because it is not only comforting but it is easier than finding a solution for their stress. This is not uncommon when the stressor is something horrible such as physical abuse or a death.

But, how do you know you are using food in this way? The first sign is obvious. You will gain weight if you eat too much. In light of the weight gain, examine other areas of your life:

  • Have you been under stress lately at work or at home?
  • Has anything traumatic happened in the last year? 
  • Are you dealing with a problem but haven’t found a solution?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions you may be an emotional eater. The foods that you choose are what are termed as ‘comfort foods’

  • High fat foods like French fries, fried foods
  • High carb foods like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes
  • Sugary foods like ice cream, donuts, cookies, cake

There is help for the emotional eater and here are just a few. Of course, it’s important to understand that each individual is different and will cope different but here are 3 main ways that will help the emotional eater.

1. Recognize the problem – Without recognition that a problem exists, it doesn’t matter the solutions because they won’t help you. When you’ve recognized that a problem exists, you will then experience feelings of helplessness and guilt. The guilt surfaces from the fact that you are ruining your health and the helplessness surfaces from the fact that you don’t see a way out or a solution.

2. Seek help – The help that is suggested here is through counseling. There are many different types of counselors available that can certainly meet your needs. Emotional eating has nothing to do with dieting or changing your eating habits but gaining control over your emotions. A counselor might suggest things like visualization, practicing problem solving skills, relaxation techniques and family support. Visualization helps you to see your problems in a realistic way and not blown out of proportion. You will also learn to see food as nutrition for the body and not as an emotional crutch.

3. Teach your family – Your family can learn your triggers for stress and be on the lookout for changes in your eating habits. They can help you be aware of the foods you are eating, assist you in making healthy food choices and exercise along with you.

Proper diet and exercise increases immunity, blood flow and positive thinking. Yoga enhances the mind/body connection so you don’t eat when you aren’t hungry.

Finding new ways to solve your problems and deal with stress will push food out of the equation. You’ll feel good about finding solutions which will replace the dependence on food.

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