Emotional Eating - A Major Factor for
Mary found her that her weight increased 60 pounds after her
divorce. While part of the weight gain was actually tied to
the medication she was taking, the rest seemed to be the result of
what can be described as emotional eating. In recent years,
more notice has been focused on the problem of emotional eating for
both women and men. In fact, some experts have gone so far as
to claim that most weight gain can be responsible for emotional
eating. According to Women Today magazine, it has been
estimated that as much as 75 percent of overeating is credited to
For a number of people, overeating is caused by
anxiety. For instance, if you find yourself eating an entire
bag of chips, it’s possible that anxiety is the cause. While
lots of people understand that alcohol and illegal drugs are not a
solution to anxiety, they may not understand that indulging in
comfort food in order to combat anxiety can be harmful as well.
In other cases, overeating may be the result of depression.
If you feel tired, hopeless, and have lost interest in your usual
activities, you may be suffering from a depressive episode. In
order to handle these painful feelings, people may turn to food in
an attempt to cheer up. The difficulty is that the food can
lead to weight gain, which can lead to further depression.
At times, overeating may be a symptom of boredom. A person
may think that he or she has nothing better to do than
overeat. This can be particularly true when one is watching
television or surfing the Internet. Rather than trying to
find a cause for the boredom, an individual may just try to
“fix” it by indulging in high-fat, high-calorie food.
How do you know if you are an emotional eater? Ask yourself
some key questions: Do I tend to eat when I’m nervous?
Scared? Sad? Do I find that eating improves my
mood? Am I spending more time eating than engaging in other
activities I enjoy? Do my binges come after I’ve suffered
disappointment? Am I turning to food in order to deal with the
death of a loved one…a divorce…or the defeat of my favorite
team? If the answers to any of these questions is “yes,” you
may be overeating purely for emotional reasons.
After you’ve identified yourself as an emotional eater, you’ll
need to take steps to correct your behavior. Perhaps the most
efficient technique is distraction. In other words, if you
find yourself reaching for the cookie jar, find another activity to
engage in. The answer could be taking a walk, a drive, or
dancing. Or it could be something less physically demanding,
such as needlepoint or crochet. The idea is to get your
hands…and perhaps the rest of your body…moving. In time, you
might find the urge to overeat drops as you become involved with
Another effective step you can take is to identify the triggers
for your emotional eating. Do you tend to binge in
mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or right before bedtime? Are you
snacking while watching television, while at the computer, or when
you’re sitting in your preferred chair? By asking yourself
these questions, you can identify the time of day when you overeat,
as well as the place for your binging. With this information,
you can learn to re-direct your behavior to less fattening pursuits.
Yet another helpful method is to develop a support network to
help you combat overeating. The members of your support team
could include your spouse, children, parents, friends, or other
over-eaters. You may even think about joining a support group
which specializes in helping those who are binge eaters. If
you feel the need to overeat, contact a member of your support
team. Talking through your emotions could supply you with the
emotional release you need, making overeating unnecessary.
If your anxiety or depression persists, consider seeing a
psychotherapist. He or she can help you develop more efficient
coping mechanisms. If you find it difficult to talk to friends
or family about your overeating, a psychotherapist can give
you the talk therapy you need to conquer your problem.