If you're like most people, you've probably experienced this situation a time or two: after a rough day, you head home to scoop yourself a big bowl of ice cream to make yourself feel better. Emotional eating is something that can affect everyone from time to time, sometimes only happening sporadically or being a constant part of everyday life. Many factors can play a part in the reason why you may be eating emotionally, and they can range from hormonal changes to stress to pure boredom. It's important to talk to your doctor if you are having any struggles with emotional eating to make sure there is not a medical cause. Otherwise, there are some changes you can make to naturally conquer your cravings and prevent yourself from eating when it's unnecessary.
What Emotional Eating Is
Simply put, emotional eating is when your body is not experiencing physical hunger, but some other factor which prompts you to eat anyway; oftentimes, what you choose to indulge your nonexistent hunger in is food which is not so healthy, like ice cream, cookies, chips or other caloric snacks mostly devoid of nutrients. If you find these bouts of emotional eating happening only once in a while—say, around your menstrual cycle or when you are bored after work one night--and you're conscious of the reason behind why you're reaching for that bag of chips, emotional eating is typically not something to get super stressed out about. However, if you notice yourself gaining weight and mindlessly munching on unhealthy snacks a large portion of the day, you likely have reason for concern.
Finding Out Triggers
Many factors can act as a trigger for your emotional eating, including stress, boredom, depression, hormonal imbalances and the simple biological feeling of satisfaction that occurs after eating something tasty. If you think there may be an underlying medical cause, it's critical you talk to your doctor first. If you believe your unhealthy eating habits may be related to an external lifestyle factor, or something like stress, there are methods you can utilize for regaining your self control and fighting back against emotional eating.
Ways to Control the Problem Naturally
When trying to come up with ways to combat your unhealthy eating habit, it's important to first identify your triggers so you can come up with a corresponding solution. Here are some natural remedies to utilize when attempting to fight controllable causes of emotional eating (not medical ones which should be addressed by your doctor).
If you find yourself scooping a massive bowl of ice cream--complete with a drizzling of chocolate syrup and sprinkles on top—whenever you have a presentation at work or a stressful school project to work on, for example, it's essential to find an alternative, productive way to deal with your stress. When you're stressed out, your body is bombarded with the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to that feeling that makes you want to reach for sugary or salty snacks, as Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD, tells Everyday Health. Meditation and deep breathing are two exercises which can be beneficial for helping you to relax and unwind without relying on food for comfort.
The key to fighting that urge to eat when you're bored is to divert your thoughts and actions immediately. Try doing something which requires expending a good amount of physical or mental energy, like going for a walk or calling up a friend to engage in some distracting, meaningful conversation.
Sometimes the impulse to reach for food when you're not even hungry can be attributed to a biological cause. When you consume your favorite snack, it's common for a rush of dopamine to hit the reward center in your brain, encouraging you to keep eating for that feel-good high. When fighting a physiological factor like this, it's a good idea to swap out any bad snacks that you know you'll probably reach for and instead have a supply of healthy snacks on standby, like carrots, a bowl of fresh berries or some celery and almond butter. Eating several small, healthy meals throughout the day can also help promote better eating habits. Additionally, being tired and having little energy can prompt you to reach for food to start feeling better, so it's essential to get enough sleep in order to refresh your body and mind and successfully control compulsive emotional eating.
Saffron extract and black tea are two other options which may help improve your emotional eating. A 2010 study showed that taking a saffron extract supplement was able to reduce the instances of uncontrollable snacking between meals. Saffron extract may work by increasing serotonin levels in the body, which can benefit those who struggle with emotional eating due to depression or anxiety. Additionally, Dr. Susan Albers-Bowling recommends sipping on black tea when the urge to eat strikes, as a study in the journal Psychopharmacology found that participants who drank black tea exhibited a 47 percent reduction of cortisol in their bodies, which contributes to hunger cravings.
When trying to fight emotional or stress eating, the most important part is figuring out why you're doing it. Once you know the reason, you'll have a better understanding about how to solve the problem. At eVitamins, we have plenty of supplements and products that can help promote wellness and give you the support to lead a healthier life. Check us out today, and come back next time for more health news!