Emotional eating is a serious problem plaguing millions of dieters around the world. As emotional eating can lead to obesity and an array of obesity-related issues, individuals struggling with any related symptoms may need to seek professional support and treatment.

What is Emotional Eating?

While, ideally, the body signals its hunger signs when it is need of calories / energy to maintain its physical functioning, emotional eating is triggered by a different catalyst. Unlike the body’s natural hunger signals, emotional eating signals are triggered by internal / mental factors, and can often feel uncontrollable. For example, some of the most common triggers of emotional eating include:

  • Stress / anxiety
  • Loneliness / low self esteem / insecurity
  • Anger / frustration
  • PMS
  • Sadness / depression
  • Personal trauma (including a loved one’s death, previous / current physical, verbal, or sexual abuse)

Symptoms of Emotional Eating

While emotional eating can be caused by a number of catalysts, the symptoms of emotional eating are identifiable in a larger spectrum. If you experience the following eating habits / symptoms, then you may be coping with problems associated with emotional eating:

  • You feel sudden urges of hunger (as the natural and physical signs of hunger should develop slowly). Hunger from emotional causes most commonly feels urgent and sudden
  • Your body craves specific (often unhealthy) foods, especially carbohydrates and / or sugars
  • You experience an urgency to eat, which can even lead to inconvenient choices. For example, if you drive to the grocery store for food late at night, or if you miss out on social opportunities in order to feed your cravings, then you may be experiencing symptoms of emotional eating. While natural and physical signs of hunger can be fed after a reasonable delay, emotional triggers of eating create a sense of urgency in order to be fed almost immediately
  • You eat unconsciously, where you may be unaware of how much you are eating, or you are eating while not even realizing it (zoning out). This often causes some individuals to consume foods without even tasting the products, as the food is thoughtlessly consumed without full mental acknowledgement
  • You eat when you feel upset and / or after an upsetting situation or experience
  • Your body rarely feels full, or you find yourself unable to stop eating even if you do notice signals of fullness. Paired with this, you may even feel that you’re unable to satisfy your feelings of hunger
  • You feel guilty after you eat / overeat
  • Your hunger is driven by food cravings instead of by physical and natural causes. For example, if you find yourself obsessed with thoughts of a certain food, such as ice cream, and you cannot let go of the craving until its satisfied, then emotional triggers could be the cause.

Natural signs of hunger are usually satiated with alternative foods, even if the ideal food of choice is not available (thus, even if you wanted ice cream, having a piece of fruit would calm your hunger signals and would not cause you to continually obsess over thoughts of the ice cream)

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