What is Emotional Eating and Why Does It Happen?

What is Emotional Eating and Why Does It Happen?

Despite our best intentions and dietary plans, emotional eating can be one of the most difficult obstacles when it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits. This is because it can happen for many different reasons that are unique to each person. Emotional eating can lead to significant weight gain, so it’s important to be aware of what it is, why it happens, and what you can do about it.

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is defined as eating food outside of normal meal times and for reasons other than sustenance. Although emotional eating can look different for everyone, it most commonly occurs as a result of stress and negative emotions. Stress can create increased levels of cortisol which, among other things, can cause cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates and salt. This process can cause many people to regularly pursue unhealthy foods, especially between meals or when they’re otherwise not hungry. Emotional eating can come in other forms, however, including as a way of coping with negative emotions or as a response to social pressure. Each person can crave different foods as well.

Why Does it Happen?

Although cortisol can be a contributing factor, there are many others that can be unique to your body and mind. It’s thought that part of the body’s stress response is an increase in appetite to help supply energy for a fight-or-flight response. However, many people experience emotional eating that is tied to psychological reasons. This can be because eating favorite foods can produce a positive response that is comforting in certain instances. In some cases, people that experienced connections with food to reward or punishment during childhood can be prone to emotional eating later in life.

How Can I Stop Eating Emotionally?

Treatment for emotional eating is most effective when it’s customized to your unique circumstances and eating habits. Although some people can find effective treatment with simply managing the stress in their lives, some people require a more in-depth assessment of emotional health and coping mechanisms. In some cases, emotional eating can be indicative of certain mental health disorders like depression or anxiety and requires the help of a mental health professional. Additionally, bariatric surgeries can be utilized if you’ve experienced significant weight gain as a result of emotional eating. If you feel like addressing your emotional eating habits is too much to handle, then enlisting the help of a medical professional can be a positive step. In fact, even being aware of your emotional eating habits can be one of the best ways to begin preventing it.

Schedule a Consultation

Dr. Louis Balsama is a bariatric surgeon in the south New Jersey area who advocates for healthy habits and living your best life. To discuss your options for living a healthy life, contact our office by calling or filling out our online form to schedule a consultation.

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