The importance of combatting emotional eating

By LISA MOBLEY MULLIS
Special to The Citizen

As a Health Care Provider at Absolute Weight Loss and Wellness I have found that the most challenging patients to treat for weight loss are emotional eaters.

A natural or prescription appetite suppressant will not be as effective for an emotional eater because emotional eaters do not eat because of hunger. They eat because of emotions which can include stress, depression, loneliness, grief, boredom and many other emotions. If you are stressed, do you make To-Do lists? Do you meditate? Do you go to a yoga class or run a couple miles? If you do these things, congratulations. No need to continue reading. However, if you are like some of us who turn to food in order to distract us from feeling upset, or indulge in comfort foods in order to accomplish or maintain a state of happy feelings, then you are an “emotional eater.” Experiments in animals and humans have shown that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially foods high in sugar, fat, and salt.

Eating when you are not really hungry in order to satisfy a craving or accomplish a feeling of happiness, is referred to as emotional eating. There are differences between being hungry (needing calories to fuel your body), and craving a specific comfort food such as pizza, ice cream, cookies, etc. Most people crave something sweet and salty once in a while, but an emotional eater will binge on comfort food to fill a void.

How do I know? Emotional eating is impulsive while true hunger comes on gradually. If you suddenly think, “Wow I really need a cookie right now” that is not true hunger. That is a craving and if ignored will eventually go away. However, hunger will not go away so easily and one is usually not so picky about what sounds good to them. So the next time you reach for food, ask yourself…, “am I hungry” or “am I eating to fill a void or to comfort myself?” Emotional eating can create the unhealthy cycle of eating to feel better, feeling guilty about eating badly and then eating more to try to feel better in order to overcome the guilt of over eating.

What do I do? Combating emotional eating involves things as simple as asking yourself, “How do I feel right now? Am I hungry? Or am I feeling upset about something?” If you are having symptoms of depression, guilt, grief or insecurity then seeking therapy with a licensed counselor may help you get to the underlying issue causing you to emotionally eat. Boredom can also be a reason for emotionally eating. Try taking a walk, playing with your pet, reading, discovering a new hobby or volunteering for people in need. A proven natural way to release “feel good” hormones is daily exercise. Daily exercise will also assist you in your weight loss goal. Journaling has proven to help people release emotions. Another good idea is to take away the temptation to emotionally eat by simply not stocking up your home with these comfort foods you know you turn to. If it is not as convenient you will be less likely to indulge on an impulse.

Emotional eating can be overcome by self introspection on your own or with the help of a professional and remember that small changes add up to big results over time.
Absolute Weight Loss & Wellness has offices in Griffin 770-710-6734 and Newnan 770-710-3225. Visit www.poundsdown.org for more information.

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