Emotional eating: overcome the ravenous beast

Emotional eating is a disorder where a person feels - and usually caves in to - strong urges to eat uncontrollably without actually feeling hungry physiologically. Experts say that a large percentage of overeating cases involve emotional eating and that women are more prone to the disorder. Emotional hunger sets in instantaneously and may happen at any time. People who eat for the sake of quenching their emotional hunger usually feel guilt or frustration afterwards for their lack of willpower.

What triggers emotional eating?

The first step to battling or managing emotional eating is to understand the condition. Those who suffer from the disorder are aware that it sometimes goes beyond one's control - as if there is an inner beast just waiting to wake up at any moment. There are a few effective techniques you could try to overcome the emotional eating “beast" But first you need to know what jolts it awake.

People tend to eat with their emotions when they feel depressed angry lonely anxious stressed out gripped with poor self-esteem and even bored. You may find yourself in situations where you can't help but overeat despite not feeling hungry. Skipping meals or eating to cure headaches or physical pains may also trigger emotional eating. It is actually normal for people to find comfort in food but it becomes a problem once it starts to affect your well-being i.e. unwanted weight gain, feelings of guilt etc.

Some techniques you could try to curb emotional eating

Start a food journal
You may have not realized that you've acquired the bad habit of eating for emotional comfort until it was already too late. To break the habit you need a clear picture of how your eating behaviour is starting to affect how you live your life. Seeing the immense quantity or frequency of your eating by keeping a record will make you more accountable.

Gauge your hunger
If you feel the urge to eat determine the intensity of your hunger from a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely full and 1 being extremely hungry. Start breaking your emotional eating habit by only giving in to food cravings if your hunger is on a scale of 4 to 5.

Distract yourself
Manage emotional eating by turning to a number of alternative activities you may do to distract yourself. Keep magazines, books, cards, or board games within reach. If you feel the urge to eat make yourself deserving by doing some housework or physical exercises first. Try doing something you really enjoy like taking a bubble bath talking to someone on the phone or connecting with people online. You won't notice that the urge has passed if you have been having fun.

Try the 3-food interference technique
If you are serious about killing your inner beast once and for all you need to make some serious commitments. Experts suggest eating at least three healthy foods first before you move on to another bingeing session. Foods like an apple, non-fat yogurt, carrots or bananas can help suppress the urge and keep you healthy. If after eating any three healthy foods and you still feel an urge to eat comfort foods just allow yourself.

Be health conscious
Lack of sleep and exercise only worsens the situation. Do your best to get enough sleep and make a commitment to exercise regularly. You will find it much easier to get into a positive mindset and feel less helpless in facing your emotional eating beast. The healthier you are the stronger your resolve will be. Pay attention to your mental and social health as well. Try meditation and breathing exercises. Most importantly seek support from loved ones in dealing with your problem.

Overcoming emotional eating can be a tough cookie to crack and something that is hard to do alone. With a little human help and the desire to change you can do it!

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