From childhood, we absorb the association “food = pleasure, comfort and security.” And in adulthood, when we want protection, rest, support, or joy, we often compensate in the familiar way: food.
Emotional Overeating: How to Tell the Difference From Real Hunger
Physical hunger is an instinctive feeling that helps your body function normally and make up for nutrient, vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies. When you eat the right amount of food, you feel satiated. Physical hunger can be distinguished by several signs:
- It builds up gradually.
- It isn’t related to a desire to eat a particular food-and nothing else.
- It can be recognized by discomfort in the stomach.
- It doesn’t appear sooner than 5-6 hours after the last meal.
Emotional hunger is different from it in everything. Food becomes the best way to cope with any vivid experiences. In most cases, they carry a negative coloring: anxiety, anger, jealousy, envy, fear, signs of depression or chronic fatigue. Positive emotions can also be a cause of overeating. Most importantly, in emotional overeating, there is a strong “food = joy, calmness, comfort” connection. For example, a person starts craving while enjoying online casino real money NZ games or losing money there instead.
Interestingly, emotional hunger is selective. It is never associated with cravings for healthy foods like lean meats, fresh vegetables, and slow carbs. You want to eat pizza, fast food, brownies, chocolate bars, and any other sweets-anything with lots of calories, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. They dramatically increase the level of insulin in the blood and activate the production of “pleasure hormones”. The good mood returns, but not for long. It all ends with a feeling of guilt. And you can control the amount of food you eat badly: even 15 minutes ago you ate half a bucket of ice cream and decided that you were full, but now you want to finish the other half.
Often what we think of as “hormonal” fullness, in reality signals that we are trapped in emotional overeating. As a rule, slim people only eat when they are really hungry. Being overweight provokes dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance, and it’s often only possible to blunt it with a new portion of junk food as a “sedative.”
How to Defeat Emotional Overeating
Regular emotional hunger leads to an eating disorder. To break out of the never-ending cycle of lots of food and guilt, nutritionists advise following important rules to combat addiction to emotional triggers.
Take the Time to Analyze Your Diet
How you eat may be more important than what you eat. Try to make a food diary and record in it the number of meals and snacks, personal taste preferences and the regularity of spontaneous bouts of hunger. The important thing here is not the fact that “I ate half a cake”, but “how I felt at that moment”.
Try to remember and analyze – you were bored, you didn’t get enough sleep and wanted to cheer yourself up, you were upset and needed support, you were overwhelmed with anxiety and wanted to calm down? All of these needs can be addressed directly, not through food, but through communication, new hobbies, and regime adjustments, but to do this you first have to catch them.
Recognize the Signs of Emotional Overeating
Because emotional hunger is addictive, it should have symptoms. Nervousness in the absence of sweets on hand, loss of control over your emotions and short-term satisfaction with feelings of hunger are the main signs that should make you wary.
Learn to Distinguish Between Hunger and Emotional Signals
An honest assessment of your feelings of hunger will help: every time you feel like eating something, ask yourself – do I really want to eat or do I see no other way to deal with my emotions? If the thought of a vegetable salad, buckwheat porridge, steamed meatballs or any other healthy meal does not cause a desire to eat it quickly, then hunger may well be due to a notorious addiction.
Try a Schedule
If your hunger is dictated by your emotions, you’re probably prone to spontaneous snacking and caloric supplements, especially in the evening and at night – because that’s the time of day we tend to be alone with ourselves, and at the same time with all the accumulated feelings. To start getting out of the vicious circle, try introducing food discipline.
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