Decoding emotional eating

Food is an essential food to fuel and nourish your body so that you can go about your everyday activities. However, are there times when you are eating because you are actually hungry or is there another reason making you reach for food?

Chances are that you are not hungry all the time. If you eat when you are in a high emotional state it tends to dull your senses so that eating becomes a mindless activity. You set yourself on the path of autopilot.

It’s not just about what you eat either, but WHY you eat.

Next time that you find yourself reaching for a snack, stop and ask yourself why do you want it? Ask yourself `am I hungry’ to open the door to a deeper awareness about yourself and discover how emotional hunger differs from physical hunger.

Emotional hunger vs physical hunger

So, how do you tell if you really are hungry, or it is just an automatic response to an emotional trigger.

When you are physically hungry, first, you should listen to your body. It will send you a natural signal when it needs more fuel in the form of nutrients. A rumbling stomach, empty feeling, dizziness, or fatigue are the main indicators that your body needs to refuel itself. The foods you choose to satisfy genuine hunger are not cravings but healthy, nutritious foods that will satisfy your hunger and provide you energy to perform.

When you are emotionally hungry, you tend to crave a sugar fix, fatty foods, or carbohydrates. These foods boost your dopamine and serotonin levels temporarily, so you feel satisfaction and your brain experiences short term pleasure. Yet these foods soon leave you feeling unsatisfied and the emotions you previously felt tend to resurface.

Identify your emotional triggers with your food journal

A food journal can help you keep track of what you eat and the emotions you feel before and after eating. This will allow you to identify patterns of emotions, the event triggers and what you reached for to help manage those stressors.

As you identify those patterns, it will help you to adopt strategies such as having healthy snacks in place for genuine hunger signals. If your hunger is emotional, activities to enhance your mood can be adopted.

If you have not brought your Food Journal yet, it is available here to start recording what you eat, how food makes you feel and more tips to reflecting on your journal entries.

Enjoy your food

Finally, enjoy the meals you prepare and savour every bite and mindfully notice the tastes, aromas, and textures of each food item.

Keeping a food journal doesn’t mean you have to cut out foods that bring you enjoyment. When you deprive yourself of something you love means is a driver for overeating. Give yourself permission to enjoy a treat once a week.



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