Do you only eat when you’re hungry?
If you’re like many people, you may sometimes engage in what’s known as “emotional eating.”
Emotional eating is defined as responding to stress by eating high-carbohydrate food with low nutritional value (think ice cream, chips, cookies, pizza, brownies, etc).
Even though emotional eating is typically triggered by stress, other emotions that are associated with it are boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, or frustration.
So yes, if you have ever sat down with a tub of ice cream because you failed your exam or a relationship didn’t go well, then you are guilty of emotional eating.
But not to worry! We’ll talk about ways to overcome this bad habit later in the article :).
As you can imagine, emotional eating is not exactly a healthy way to deal with stress. Emotional eating has been linked to obesity, among other things (1).
With emotional eating, stress is really the underlying factor.
The increase in cortisol that occurs with our “fight or flight” response actually increases our appetites, which means that too much stress can effectively make you fat. If you are under chronic stress, then you are at an even greater risk for emotional eating.
Another risk factor is the way you view food.
If you view food primarily as a source of pleasure, or you tend to associate happiness with certain foods, then you are at a higher risk for emotional eating. However, if you look at food as fuel for your body, then you are much less likely to engage in emotional eating.
Take the test!
If you think you are about to engage in emotional eating, you can take what’s known as the “broccoli test.” If you think you’re hungry, imagine eating a piece of broccoli (or an apple).
If you’re actually hungry, you would eat the broccoli/apple. But with emotional eating, you would much more likely choose something less healthy. If you wouldn’t eat it, then most likely you are about to engage in emotional eating
So what can you do?
Since stress is typically what causes emotional eating, stress reduction techniques are usually very effective for overcoming emotional eating. Exercise and meditation are some of the best ways to reduce stress.
While I will be talking more about exercise in future posts, I want to briefly talk about meditation. In my opinion, meditation is a very underutilized tool for stress relief. Personally, I have been meditating on and off for the past 3 years or so, and I have found it to be invaluable.
If you have never tried meditation and would like to know where to begin, check out this link. It has really good instructions and tips on how to meditate. And don’t worry, you don’t need any special equipment!
I also find that listening to music helps me relieve my stress. What do you guys do for stress relief? Let me know in the comments!