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Emotional Eating 101 - What is Emotional Eating?

Jul 25, 2008
Frustrated with losing weight? Tired of the yo-yo dieting weight-loss-weight-gain cycle?

If diets haven't worked for you, you may be struggling with emotional eating. It's been estimated that over 75% of overeating has emotional roots behind it.

So what is emotional overeating anyway?

Emotional overeaters eat to avoid or stuff down uncomfortable feelings. They eat to cope with life. They eat for reasons other than physical hunger and the nourishment of their body.

Emotional over eating comes in many forms. You could be eating because you're:

- angry

- depressed

- scared

- anxious

- bored

- tired

- hurt

- lonely

- discouraged

Some people even eat to calm themselves down when they are overly happy or excited.

Basically if you're eating in response to a difficult situation, when you're not physically hungry, then you're probably eating emotionally.

Emotional eaters may feel hunger come on very quickly and they feel they need to eat NOW (whereas regular physical hunger comes on slowly and usually isn't as demanding). They may go out of their way to get food like driving to the grocery store late at night or driving long distances just to get a specific food.

They usually choose sweet or salty comfort foods like chocolate, cookies, cakes, chips, pizza, cheeseburgers or other 'bad' foods. They usually eat a lot of food very fast (this kind of behavior is often called a binge).

They may feel frenzied or hurried, anxious to get it all down. Alternatively, emotional overeaters may simply graze on food constantly just to get through the day.

Emotional overeaters usually eat way past the normal feeling of fullness. They usually feel emotions like guilt and regret after eating and may hide their eating from others.

So what's the big deal? Doesn't everyone use food to cope sometimes?

Yes. To some extent it's fairly normal to eat out of our emotions occasionally. We all do it - even naturally thin eaters have days when they just need a cheeseburger or piece of chocolate for a pick-me-up.

Eating out of your emotions becomes a problem when it starts to take over your life; when it starts to cause weight problems; and when food becomes your 'drug of choice' to handle any kind of difficult emotion.

It's then that this behavior becomes a habit - and losing weight becomes virtually impossible. It also hurts us emotionally and psychologically. We don't gain the confidence that we can handle difficult situations since we're always numbing ourselves with food instead of tackling the problem.

So what can you do?

The good news is that if you are an emotional eater, now you know why diets haven't worked in the past. You haven't failed - the diets were just addressing the wrong thing - the food.

The real issue is that you've developed the habit of using food to handle difficult emotions. Once you address this, then you'll quickly notice your food cravings diminishing and you'll start to lose weight.

It may take some time and commitment to change - but the weight loss results are well worth it - and much more permanent than any diet.
About the Author
Kate O'Neill writes for Stop Emotional Eating - a website offering tips, resources and programs to help you stop emotional overeating and lose weight for good. For more information visit http://www.Stop-Emotional-Eating.net
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