Emotional Eating is eating to feed your emotions rather than your body. It’s sometimes referred to as stress eating because emotional eating is often triggered by stressful events or emotions. But emotional eating is more than just stress, it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism to handle your feelings. Knowing that you’re an emotional eater is the first steps towards healing, but many individuals don’t even realize that they’re emotional eaters! Maybe you think you just have self-control issues or simply love to eat.
But there are actually several signs you can use to identify if you’re an emotional eater. You may be struggling with weight loss or find it difficult to follow a healthy eating plan. You may want to lose weight, but not understand that your weight gain is a result of emotional eating. By creating awareness around emotional eating, you can start your journey towards healing it for good!
Since you first have to be aware of your emotional eating in order to change it, here are 6 signs you’re an emotional eater (and might not have realized it).
1. Thoughts about food consume you
Food obsession is something you may struggle with, thinking about it almost constantly. Food obsession could look like fixating on a diet, meal plan, or calorie consumption. If you spend a large portion of your day thinking about food this could be a sign that you’re an emotional eater.
2.You eat when you’re happy
While this may be surprising to some, often individuals emotionally eat when they’re happy - not just sad. You may see eating as a reward to happy news or emotions, and this is often learned from eating at holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. While it’s definitely not wrong to enjoy food with others, be aware if you use happiness or a celebration as an excuse to overeat or binge on foods you enjoy.
3. You use food to fill a void
When you’re feeling down, you seek out “comfort food”. This might look like craving foods like ice cream, cake, chocolate and cookies that lead to overeating when you do consume them.
4. You eat even when you’re full
Even if you’ve just eaten and feel full, you’ll keep eating. You may not feel satisfied or you may actually want to stop eating but find you can’t. This is often the case when you momentarily feel better from eating and want to recapture that feeling with more food. You might even resist eating but can’t wait to eat again as you think about how satisfied you’ll feel when you get to eat.
5. You’ve followed (and failed) fad diets
Fad diets tend to make extraordinary (and unrealistic) promises. They promise rapid weight loss and suppressed appetites usually as a result of extreme restrictions. Fad diets create unsustainable eating patterns and ultimately damage individuals’ relationships with food. If you’ve found yourself on the diet rollercoaster, and constantly trying (then failing) to follow new diets, you’re likely an emotional eater.
6. Your eating feels out of control
When you’re emotionally eating, you’re relying on food for your happiness and to escape negative feelings. When you no longer eat based on your hunger signals, you’re emotionally eating. If you can’t put the food down or can’t resist overeating, you’re emotionally eating.
Becoming aware of your emotional eating is the first step towards healing. If these signs help you discover that you are an emotional eater, I’d love to hear from you! Speaking with a qualified therapist can help you understand why you eat emotionally and teach you how to manage it.