Are you an emotional eater? Do you eat because your brain is telling you to, even when your stomach is full? Maybe often times you have wondered if you suffer from emotional eating, or maybe you wonder if you are a carbohydrate addict.

You know when the feeling is coming, you are craving something sweet or salty so bad you can’t refrain from having it, and you keep eating more of it, even as part of you is telling you to stop.

Many of us that have been or are overweight or obese are very familiar with emotional eating, although we might not call it that way, or might not be able to recognize it. But we know one thing, that when we are stressed, down, upset, annoyed, depressed and so on, we run toward the cookie jar!

Are you an emotional eater?

Here are seven signs of emotional eating:

1. You feel hungry but not because your stomach is hungry, but because your mouth wants to eat.
2. You are craving certain types of food, either sweets or salty food.
3. Even when your belly is full, you don’t feel satisfied, and you are trying to reach for something more to eat.
4. You feel depressed, down, upset, angry, stressed, or are experiencing a mix of these negative emotions and you feel like getting yourself a piece of cake, a bag of M&M’s or a Hershey chocolate.
5. You feel hungry out of the blue without explanation, you just need to eat something.
6. You are eating but are not aware of what you are doing, like for example you sit in front of your computer with a bag of cookies and suddenly you put your hand into the bag to grab another cookie and they are all gone. No cookies left.
7. After you eat what you were craving you have a sense of shame or feel guilty, and you start beating yourself up mentally.

So why do you act that way? You know is not good for you or your health, but you don’t seem to be able to control it once it starts.

The correlation between food and emotions:

Let me tell you something positive here, emotional eating is a learned coping behavior that we use to avoid unpleasant emotions. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, the emotional eating started as a decision. A decision that you have repeated over and over, and which probably started at the very early ages of your life, and for that reason it feels like you have no control over it.

In fact it is very likely that your emotional eating started when you were a baby. Maybe when your mother used to feed you and so you would stop crying, or when you would be taken to the dentist and mom took you for ice cream after the dentist’s visit. Or maybe it started when visiting your grandma and she made you feel fantastic after you eat her freshly baked warm apple pie.

We were conditioned to see food as something rewarding, something we should enjoy so when we don’t feel up to part, we use food as a “make me feel better” tool. In summary when you are upset, you eat to comfort yourself.

This is the correlation between food and comfort. That’s why so many times you hear the term comfort food.

So what exactly happened? We grew up and as adults, we have conditioned ourselves to go for the comfort food every time we are going through an unpleasant emotion. It’s the quick fix.

Maybe we are upset at our boss, but because we can’t go and tell them how much we dislike them, we run to the cafeteria and get a huge chocolate bar, which makes us feel fantastic immediately, at least on a temporary basis.

You are trying to hide your real negative or unpleasant emotions and covering them with the sweets. What the food represents to you is comfort, care, and it eases and alleviates your negative feelings.

So are you an emotional eater? I believe that after reading this article you will have a better understanding of how it all started and how it feels to be an emotional eater.

On my next post, I will discuss what you can do to deal with emotional eating.

To a healthier you,

Dr. Alfonso

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