Fitness – What is emotional overeating, and how to overcome this habit?

Do you like to treat yourself to a special dessert in honour of a good mood, do you reach for a large package of nuts in moments of stress and hope that the ice cream parlour will quench your sorrows? Perhaps, food has become for you a familiar reaction to strong emotions. Why is this happening, and how to get rid of an unhealthy habit?


Why do we “eat up” stress?

Most of us get used to the fact that food is the answer to our feelings, even before we start talking and walking. Hearing loud crying baby, the mother puts him to her chest or gives him a bottle. With this, it would seem, natural process, fixing the mechanism of self-satisfaction with food begins. 


Susan Albers, the psychologist from Cleveland, the author of the book “Eat consciously: how to stop eating up problems and develop a balanced attitude to food”, argues:


Certain foods increase the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, and also cause other chemical changes, as a result of which you calm down.


But the pleasure passes quickly. So that the signal that the stomach is full came to the brain and turned into a feeling of satiety, it takes 20 minutes. The problem is that in these 20 minutes you can eat a bucket of ice cream – and inevitably feel bad. Susan Albers rightly observes:


If you literally stuffed your stomach with food, then discomfort replaces calmness. Delicacies only distract you from problems for a short time.


However, the problems themselves do not go away and will continue to bother you until you find a more rational method for solving them. What’s to be done? Is there any way to get rid of the habit of eating up the excitement? Yes, fortunately, there is a way out, but it will require your effort, determination and – most importantly – awareness of the fact that the problem is relevant for you.


Write down what you ate

To escape from the vicious circle of eating up emotions, you need to find out exactly which feelings or events make you want to look into the refrigerator.

Kristin Gerbstadt, a spokeswoman for the American Nutrition Association, advises:


Write down everything that you eat, and be sure to note what your mood was before, during and after the meal. Are you really hungry, or did you just have nothing to do? Were you in a good or bad mood?


A few days later you will understand what emotions are causing your impulse to visit the kitchen. In addition, the need itself to stop and write down the name of the dish and describe your emotional state already gives you a few minutes to understand whether you are hungry or just want to calm down. 


How to prevent an attack of emotional overeating

Instead of eating at the behest of emotions or hunger, develop the habit of sitting at the table according to the regime. Plan six meals a day and eat in small portions. Christine Gerbstadt advises:


In each meal, choose dishes that will provide you with both fats, proteins and carbohydrates.


If you stop letting yourself eat and make a clear schedule and menu, then you will not be so vulnerable to the temptation to “eat up” problems.

During the day, take time for a little workout. A study of the behaviour of people prone to overeating on emotional grounds showed that a five-minute walk helped them cope with the desire to eat candy. Experts say that walking, as well as other moderate physical activity, raise the level of the hormone serotonin and helps to calm down. 


Think up for yourself a list of useful activities that will help you take your mind off in the tense moments, instead of reaching for goodies, and hang it in a prominent place. Susan Albers recommends:


Every time you have an urge to “eat up” stress, choose for yourself another activity that will reassure you. If you are at home, take a bath or go for a short walk to the nearest park. So you will gradually learn to cope with emotions without resorting to a plate and spoon.


7 tips for those who want to stop “eating up” stress

  1. Before you eat anything, write down the name of the product in the notebook. The fact that you put aside the “yummy” for a minute and open the notebook will help to think: are you really hungry?
  2. Eat from small in diameter cymbals and bowls.
  3. Do not store food in one large container, but in a few small containers.
  4. Never eat anything directly from the shopping bag. Be sure to get the product and put on the plate as much as you really should eat.
  5. Keep foods that tempt you away from your eyes, preferably in hard-to-reach places, for example, in the basement of the house or on the uppermost shelf of the cabinet.
  6. If you have food at home that you simply can not resist, then gather your spirit and throw it away.
  7. Allow yourself a small portion of the desired meal (for 150-200 kcal), and then go for a walk.


You can not defeat the habit to eat at the peak of emotions in one day, since it was formed over the years. However, in a few days you will feel that you have become more consciously. And if you manage to hold out for a month, then success is almost guaranteed! Eat wisely, and then life will hold pleasure!


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