, author: Ermakova M.

Eating for Stress: How to Manage Emotional Hunger

The relationship between food and emotions can be problematic when it is out of our control.

Photo source: 123rf.com

Stress is one of the most common problems in our society, and everyone approaches it differently. Unfortunately, not everyone does this properly, and there are those who turn to food to try to mitigate its effects. This leads to so-called eating disorders, which, although they can affect anyone, are especially common in women.

Resorting to food in response to stress means extra pounds on the scale. What is emotional hunger and how to manage it?

Emotional hunger: what is it?

Emotional hunger, in simple terms, is the desire to eat to cope with a specific emotion being felt. This emotion does not have to be stress, it can even be boredom, and in fact it is very common to find inactive people who try to find in food the stimulus that is missing in their lives.

Thus, eating in response to emotional discomfort is a way to suppress or calm negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Important life events or, more commonly, discomfort in daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and interfere with weight loss efforts.

The problem with emotional hunger is that it becomes the only way to cope with that particular emotion being felt. That is, eating as a consequence of emotions does not inherently cause anxiety, but if eating is the only form of response, you should think about it.

In fact, your emotions may become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a snack when you're angry or stressed, without thinking about what you're doing.

Emotional eating.

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How to deal with emotional hunger

Whatever emotion is driving you to overeat, the end result is usually the same. The effect is temporary, the emotions return, and you'll likely carry the additional burden of guilt for putting on those extra pounds. This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle: your emotions make you want to overeat, you beat yourself up for being fat, you feel bad, and you overeat again.

The first step may be to understand that food is not a problem, but a “cover.” Giving us permission to notice that we've been eating too much and that he wants to communicate this situation to us can be a good start.
Pay attention to your body sensations to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger; in this sense, the practice of mindful eating or mindful eating can be a useful tool.

To avoid emotional eating, try these tips:

  • Keep a food diary. It is recommended that if we identify that we are experiencing emotional hunger, before we start eating, we take out a paper and pen to write down the reasons why we think we are experiencing emotional hunger at that moment. This exercise encourages us to be more aware of our actions and thus avoid impulsiveness at the moment, on the other hand we gain more responsibility for the situation and finally it is possible that after performing this action the emotional hunger has disappeared or become more controllable than before .
  • Test yourself for the reality of hunger. You need to be able to distinguish emotional hunger from physiological hunger. To achieve this, we can ask ourselves a few questions: Why am I going to eat? Is it from hunger, anxiety or boredom?

We need to start being more mindful when it comes to food. Here are some of the tips that are recommended to be applied to change the situation:

  • Drink water before meals to reduce anxiety and induce a state of calm before eating.
  • Eat calmly and seated: It is important to set aside a reasonable amount of time to eat without rushing.
  • Determine when you are hungry and try to eat only when our body really wants it. Control your impulses.
  • Eat slowly: To achieve this, you should allow at least 20 minutes to eat.
  • Use all your senses. Not just the sense of taste. It is recommended to use healthy snacks: fruits, for example, apples, or even raisins. Try to focus all your attention on the sensations that food gives us when we touch that fruit, analyze it, slowly smell and taste it.
  • We don't have to feel like our stomach is completely full to stop. Our brain takes 15 minutes to send a message that it is satisfied, we must give it that time.
  • Chew well rather than gulp your food.
  • Swallow all food before taking the next bite.
  • Create a daily food menu.
  • Choose healthier foods between meals, such as pieces of fruit.
  • Exercise.