In our previous article, “Signs and Causes of Emotional Eating” we explained what emotional eating is and some of it’s causes. If you missed it you can read it here. In this article we’ll address the dangers of emotional eating, how to find your personal triggers that are at the root cause of your unhealthy eating habit, and we’ll share a few tips of what you can do to stop emotional eating.

Dangers of Emotional Eating

There a number of unhealthy habits that can develop over time if eating activities aren’t monitored closely. One very easy unhealthy habit to fall into is emotional eating. This can go unnoticed because it’s not widely thought of as dangerous compared to life threatening habits such as illegal drug use. Also, many say or think they can simply “exercise more later,” without realizing that the more they get our of control, the harder it becomes to return to more healthy eating patterns.

But can emotional eating habits really be a danger to you?

Let’s explore this together.

You Tend to Eat Unhealthy Food

Emotional eating can start from a very young age during childhood, but it can also hit very suddenly out of nowhere at any age to seek out specific cravings to be filled. Often times these powerful cravings are for sugar and fat filled snacks because of the powerful rush that is experienced after consumption. Seeking out comfort food or food that is connected with positive or nostalgic feelings has been common practice for all of recorded history. Many snack foods (especially candy and baked goods) are associated with memories of fun times or loved ones. Some children develop early obesity when they learn this type of self soothing. The methods that are used to produce foods of these types typically contain high levels of salt, sugars, fats and preservative agents.

It is an Unhealthy Way to Cope with Emotions

Emotional eating is often used as a way to avoid dealing with complex emotions. Not every trigger will be the same for each person, but these could include a range of emotions and feelings including anxiety, boredom, loneliness, disgust, sadness, and even joy. The emotional danger is the continued neglect of the real reasons behind these emotions. A feeling of shame or guilt might follow binges. This is especially true when the behavior is hidden from friends or family. If a person uses eating as a way to escape or distract them self emotionally, a vicious cycle can develop. For example, a person who seeks food to cope with stress will create a paradox where weight-related health issues arise, and the chosen coping method is food.

There are Weight-Related Health Risks

Emotional overeating can cause devastating health problems. Beyond the difficulties surrounding obesity, these could include other health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety, malnutrition, digestive problems, depression and women can experience menstrual problems too. If you are overeating and appear to be experiencing any of these symptoms or health problems, emotional eating is likely to be a significant factor. Most frightening of all, some of these diseases have dangerous side effects that could interfere with medical responder’s efforts to carry out life saving procedures. Heart disease and diabetes can also weaken the organs and immune system, leaving you susceptible to infectious disease as well.

How to Find Your Emotional Eating Triggers

Most people are well acquainted with the knowledge that overeating is unhealthy and can make you vulnerable to various complications, but where do you go to learn what causes lead to emotional eating habits?

Let’s have a look at some of the factors that trigger emotional eating, and later in the article we’ll share some tips on how you can avoid these triggers as well as how you can stop emotional eating.

Trigger Emotional Eating Foods

Some foods trigger powerful cravings and memories that send a person into a state where they don’t consider what they are putting in their body. Strong emotional, or cultural identification with specific foods can begin at an early age, so these habits can become very deeply embedded into an individual’s identity. Marketing research companies spend billions of dollars learning how to connect the emotions of the consumer to their products, so thinking about the kinds of food you consider are very important. One extremely effective tool that you can use to help you find out what is happening with your eating habits, is to begin keeping a journal.

Trigger Emotional Eating Emotions

As you write what kind of foods you eat, it’s also good to make a note of how you’re feeling at the time of the craving. Strong emotions of any kind can affect how you chose to go about your eating habits during meal time, and it’s important to note that they can be both positive and negative emotions. When a person is emotionally eating, it frees the mind of the burden of focusing on issues and allows for an escape. It can also provide a pleasurable experience that allows the eater a feeling of being rewarded. Studies have shown that food can light up the same areas of the brain that react in drug addiction, so that means that serious thought and planning must go into combating these habits.

Trigger Emotional Eating Environments

Last, and certainly not least is your environment. This can cover a wide variety of variables such as who you are spending time with, where you are located, and what kinds of events are taking place. Some people find public situations highly stressful, while some others may find alone time to be stressful. Overeating often takes place when the subject is alone, but every case is different. Because of these differences in emotional eating habits and behaviors it can be very helpful to keep a food journal, because it enables and empowers you to take an honest look at your triggering factors. Recording this information can expose a pattern and help you overcome the difficult habit of emotional eating.

Tips For Putting a Stop To Emotional Eating

People often say that the first step to conquering any habit is recognizing that there is a problem, but what can you do to change or stop the behavior? Let’s look at some of the factors while we share some tips on how you can put a stop to emotional eating.

Take Notes

One very effective way to find out the what, where, and when of emotional eating is to begin a process of keeping a journal. Much of the drives to engage in emotional eating are subconscious, so keeping a journal will be a powerful tool in discovering what the circumstances or experiences may be that lead to a session of emotional eating. Write down every time you decide to eat. During the note taking, document details of the events by asking yourself questions. How hungry were you on a scale of 1 – 10? Where were you when the eating took place. Were you at work, school, home or out in public? Were you with friends, loved ones, coworkers or alone? Was there a certain circumstance, conversation, or situation that might have triggered your cravings? You might be surprised to find that subtle, yet visible patterns will soon emerge.

Take Action

After you’ve spent some time taking notes, compiling information, and asking yourself key questions, you may find what some of the major triggering events might be. If you have asked yourself the questions and found that you were less than a 6 in hunger, and cravings appear during specific situations, you could be stress eating. One of the easiest ways to quit almost any habit is to simply replace the unhealthy behavior with healthy behavior. For example, you can keep healthy, low calorie snacks handy. There are also some delicious teas which contain nutrients that help curb hunger, aid metabolic function, and a few like black tea are known to lower stress hormones by nearly half during consumption.

Take Care

Alternatively, other methods such as exercise and deep breathing can be very effective in managing stress in the moment, or at the end of your day. Shallow breathing has been found to increase stress in the body, so spending the time to allow your body a chance to concentrate on breathing can lead to many health benefits. Exercise and breathing go hand in hand, so a healthy regimen can go a long way to putting you on the path to success.