Emotional eating is when people use food as a way to cope with their feelings rather than to satisfy their hunger.

Eating out of boredom, sadness, anger, or stress is described as “emotional eating”. It is common for major life events or the hassles of everyday life to trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating.

The Autopilot Effect of Eating

Many people, including myself, are guilty of emotional eating. In times of stress, I eat. In times of depression, I turn to food. For as long as I can remember, comfort eating has been a coping mechanism for me, but I’ve learned how to manage it so that it doesn’t take over my life. When emotional eating is involved, binge eating can result, and it is not triggered by hunger. In most cases, when you binge, you tend to eat on autopilot, forgetting what exactly you’ve eaten, like you’ve gone on autopilot.

When you sit down to watch TV, you find that you need something to eat. Eating becomes a hobby and a pastime, and before you know it, you’ve consumed so many calories without even realising it.

Using Food as a Coping Mechanism

Most people consider food more than just a source of energy. It’s a great feeling to go out to restaurants for delicious food and to get excited about what we’re going to eat when we get home from work. There is nothing wrong with food being a treat from time to time, but it becomes a problem when you can’t live without knowing you have access to comfort food.

The food we eat can be like a comfort blanket. You feel calm when you know you have access to it, and it relieves stress when you eat. An especially stressful day at work makes me want to eat lots of food at home. Food has become a coping mechanism for me, and it is important for you to get out of the habit of using food as a coping mechanism.

In order to beat emotional eating, you must retrain your brain to find other coping mechanisms and to no longer turn to food as a coping mechanism.

What You Can Do To Stop Emotional Eating

Are there any alternatives to food that can fix how I feel?

Take a look at other ways you can soothe the discomfort you are attempting to fix. As an alternative to filling the void with food, try taking a long, hot bath and reading a book, meditating or doing yoga, talking with family or friends, or working on a project like blogging!

Make a change in your diet.

You should try to phase out your comfort eating by replacing it with healthier options, such as hummus and carrot sticks instead of crisps, olives and tomatoes in place of fried foods, and fruit salad in place of sweets. Find foods you still enjoy eating but that are much better for you than the usual comfort junk foods.

Investigate the root cause of your emotional eating.

Does emotional eating have anything to do with what you’re going through? What emotional event triggered your emotional eating and got you into bad habits? Mental health issues such as depression will often contribute to emotional eating, which can be controlled by seeing a counsellor. Consult your doctor about starting up some counselling sessions so that you can get your eating habits back on track. Online counselling is also an option.

Exercise.

Even if you don’t want to hear it, exercise has proven to be one of the best ways to control emotional eating. A few times a week, just 30 minutes of exercise makes me feel healthier both in my mind and body, and this makes me want to eat less and actually take pride in my body. It is not my goal to lose large amounts of weight, but to feel more energetic and happy in myself, so give it a try and spend the time you would be eating working out and sweating.