man holding cup of food

How to Overcome Emotional Eating

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the variety of strict lockdown measures accompanying it has undeniably taken their toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Among many other things, stress eating or ‘emotional eating’ is an unhealthy coping mechanism many have embraced to deal with the tension of the ‘new normal’. Read our latest article, where we explore the causes of emotional eating and how to overcome it, ensuring you live a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet.

The main differences between the physical and emotional eater

Physical hunger occurs gradually, with the urge to eat becoming progressively stronger as time passes. But with emotional eating, you will be hit with a strong and sudden urge to eat.

Emotional eating refers to the act of eating because of emotions rather than satisfying physical hunger. So one would eat out of boredom, or due to sadness, loneliness or frustration.It might not even be a negative emotion. You could be going through a period of happiness and eat out of celebration.

Physical hunger occurs gradually, with the urge to eat becoming progressively stronger as time passes. But with emotional eating, you will be hit with a deep and sudden craving usually linked to a specific taste, such as chocolate, chips or cookies.

With physical hunger, you are open to pretty much any type of food, as long as it fills your stomach. But with emotional hunger, nothing will satisfy you until you’ve fulfilled your quest for that specific taste.

Additionally, emotional hunger is usually accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame, which you don’t really feel when satisfying your physical hunger. So, with the stress of a world-altering event such as Covid, it’s not surprising that people are turning to emotional eating as a coping mechanism.

But, there is no need to worry. We’ve got your back. Here are three methods to help you overcome emotional eating, according to Claudia Martin, a registered dietician from Consultant Dieticians. 

Three steps to overcome emotional hunger.

Pause and Reflect 01

Whenever you’re hit with a strong craving, just pause for a second, reflect on this feeling and ask yourself, are you actually hungry? When was the last time you ate? Just taking a brief moment to think about your hunger will help you identify if this is an emotional response or not. This is a simple but incredibly effective tool that will help you control your diet.

Identify the Trigger 02

Emotional eating is often driven by specific triggers unique to each person. It’s up to you to identify yours. Have you noticed a certain pattern? Maybe, every time after you’ve been in a stressful meeting, you suddenly get a craving for some chips or cookies? Start identifying your triggers and write them down on a list. Take a good look at this list and remind yourself that these snacks are your triggers. It might seem like a silly exercise, but it will help you take control of your emotional eating and stop it from getting the better of you.

Learn to deal with your emotions 03

This step is probably the most important, as it helps you deal with the root of the problem. The key is to find healthy substitutes to deal with your emotional hunger. So, for example, if you notice that every time you’re anxious you want to eat something, try replacing that urge with a workout, meditation or even just try listening to music. If you’re sad, call a friend. If you’re bored, try pouring your energy into a hobby. Often, we try to fill emotional gaps by filling our stomachs. Learning to deal with our emotions in a healthy way will not only stop us from rapidly gaining weight, but will lead to a happier lifestyle.