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Emotional Eating.

Summary: Many of us don't realise the intricate connectivity of our moods to the food we eat.

Many of us don't realise the intricate connectivity of our moods to the food we eat.

Occasionally throwing out the healthy eating rulebook didn't hurt anyone but if a dysfunctional pattern should develop, more serious ailments will arise -- such as obesity. In our continual struggle to try and reduce growing levels of obesity, one of the biggest challenges is unraveling the complicated physical and psychological variables coming together to wreck serious havoc. Now its one thing to have a biological dysfunction leading to harmful eating habits, however it's a much more complex issue when that biological component is exasperated by psychological features.

These emotional components contribute to a dangerous cycle of weight gain and therefore being aware of them would be an essential part of tackling the problem at the roots. Individuals who have a history of psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety might be at a greater risk of becoming obese.

The victims here remain imprisoned in their cells of sadness and may have more difficulty controlling their consumption of food, amount of exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight.

According to Dr. Collins, a leading specialist in obesity, when people feel distraught, they turn to food to cope. Such comfort eating may result in temporary reduction of their unhappy mood, yet the weight gain that results may cause an even lowered mood. 'The resulting guilt may reactivate the cycle, leading to a continuous pattern of using food to cope with emotions. This pattern is particularly applicable if there is a genetic predisposition for obesity or a 'toxic' environment in which calorically dense foods are readily available and physical activity is limited.'

Emotional eating is due to unresolved feelings rather than actual hunger. Furthermore, there are several differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger, according to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center web site:

* Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger occurs gradually.

* When you are eating to fill a void that isn't related to an empty stomach, you crave a specific food, such as pizza or ice cream, and only that food will meet your need. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you're open to options.

* Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food you crave; physical hunger can wait.

* Even when you are full, if you're eating to satisfy an emotional need, you're more likely to keep eating. When you're eating because you're hungry, you're more likely to stop when you're full.

* Emotional eating can leave behind feelings of guilt; eating when you are physically hungry does not.

Here are some indicative signs that you may be an emotional eater:

* You feel stressed about a particular issue but instead of dealing with it directly, you postpone it by heading off to find your favorite treat.

* You find that you eat larger portions and/or foods that you believe are "naughty" when you are alone.

* You get cravings that feel out of control -- you literally can't think of anything else until you eat what you are craving.

* You eat until you feel stuffed often.

* You can taste your craving in your mouth, hunger is not located in your stomach.

* You dream about eating through out the day and use emotionally charged words/phrases such as 'I would die for', divine, heavenly and enticingly scrumptious.

* You eat when happy

* You aren't hungry enough to eat an apple, but you are definitely interested in diving into your favorite snack/food.

* You feel guilty about or ashamed of your eating habits and of blowing your healthy eating plan once again.

* When you do something good, you celebrate with a food related treat because you feel like you deserve it.

* You don't stop eating to your body's response that you're full.

* You turn to foods or beverages when you feel fatigued and need energy

Certainly these signs and symptoms should not be ignored. Begin exploring (in an objective, gentle and flexible way) the underlying causes -- the emotions themselves. Try and be more connected to your thoughts and feelings so that you can better predict, understand and manage them. Have regular meals. Delay or postpone your urges or better yet, break bad eating habits by gradually replacing them with healthier options. This is a process so be patient and don't expect to see changes over night.

Remember, learning more results in living moreC*over to you

Samineh I Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, currently lecturing in Dubai, as well as a cross-cultural consultant at HRI. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and the UAE. She co hosts a radio program (Psyched Sundays 10-12pm) every Sunday morning on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to

Copyright 2012 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 10, 2012
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