Years ago before the age of a kitchen with a refrigerator and a pantry, people understood that food was a way to satisfy a biological need-HUNGER. Today we have food all around us-when we get gas, when we are standing in the checkout line at a sporting goods store, or when we go home. Fortunately, we no longer have to hunt and gather to survive. However, this continual access to food has brought about the development of a problem that a umber of us encounter-emotional eating. Instead of eating when we are hungry, we now eat when we are bored, sad, angry, tired, frustrated, lonely or even happy. We fall into a trap of using food to deal with our emotions rather than developing a healthier coping skill.
Here are some signs of emotional eating:
- You find yourself unconsciously reaching for food when you are stressed or experiencing some other emotion and the food is unhealthy (potato chips, ice cream, cookies, cake, or some other processed food).
- Instead of doing what needs to get done, you avoid the task(s) and eat. Maybe you feel overwhelmed you do not know where to start; food is used as a way to evade what you see as difficult or impossible
- You seek “comfort” in food. Rather than talking through your feelings or finding a healthy way to cope you find yourself eating certain (i.e., unhealthy) foods to help you feel better.
- You find yourself eating when you are not hungry, and you feel that your eating is “out of control” you feel that you cannot stop yourself at just one bite, just one cookie-you eat the whole bag or package.
- You eat when you feel happy. Food is seen as a way to celebrate, and so food becomes paired with happy emotions, good news, or positive feelings. The happier you are, the more you eat and the more you use this happiness as an excuse to eat. Later, because food has been linked to pleasure, you also learn to use it when you want a pleasurable feeling. Theis leads to the nxt one:
- You eat to feel happy. Food is a way for you to feel more positive emotions. That chocolate cake or ice cream or those cookies or potato chips are associated with good feelings, so ou use these foods to recreate happier feelings (but then find that you “crash” afterward with either guilt or depressed emotions).
- Your world revolves around food and it becomes an obsession. You think about food constantly, even when you are not hungry. Food becomes the main motivator of the day, and you incessantly think about when, where and what you will eat.
- You “sneak” food and eat at odd times. For example, you may get up in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, tiptoe down to the kitchen, and eat the leftover pizza, the quart of ice cream in a couple of those chocolate bars you have hidden in a special place in the kitchen drawer.
- You see food as a reward. Having a bad day? You go to the vending machine to get a candy bar. Boss happy with your accomplishment at work? You celebrate at dinner with a couple of glasses of wine and a caloric-rich dessert.
We all are prone to eat in an unhealthy manner due to different stressors or events in our lives. Nonetheless, when we find ourselves feeling that our eating is getting out of control when we have developed weight and health problems due to our eating habits, or when we feel ashamed of the relationship we have with food, then we need to get help. Hilton Head Health is here to provide that help, and we encourage you to look for more information on our website so that you can get started on a path to a healthier lifestyle physically and emotionally. We also encourage you to look for more blog posts on how to effectively handle your feelings, and how to counteract unhealthy habits. Contact us, we are here to help you make the changes that will lead to a healthier, happier and better life!