Could You Have an Eating Disorder?
Do you find yourself gaining weight during times of stress? Do you fear boredom because you know you'll simply eat to fill the time? These are just some of the symptoms of emotional overeating. If you think you may suffer from this relatively common eating disorder, here are some signs and symptoms that may help you identify whether or not this is what you're struggling with.
If you have a binge eating disorder or emotional overeating problem, you may stuff food in and not even really taste it or realize what you're doing. It's as though you are "out of it" and just mindlessly stuffing food into your mouth.
Feelings of Guilt and Shame
Many people with emotional overeating disorders feel really embarrassed and hateful of themselves after they've got through with an eating binge. The problem, of course, is that these negative feelings may make you reach for more food for comfort.
Eating in Secret
Because of being embarrassed, may emotional overeaters will eat in private, reserving their "naughty" foods for when no one is looking.
Always on My Mind...
Do you think about food all the time? Do you feel anxious about the prospect of leaving the house without snacks or money to buy food? Constantly thinking about food (food obsession) may be a sign that you have an emotional overeating disorder.
Sometimes, emotional overeaters will eat and eat to comfort themselves, and then feel sick afterward. Obviously, this is your body's way of telling you you've eaten far too much more than is good for you; but for emotional overeaters, this sickness does not necessarily deter the next binge.
Identify Your Triggers
Emotional overeating is usually triggered by something - emotions, yes, but sometimes we need to be more specific than that. Identifying your personal triggers can go a long way toward helping you overcome the disorder. Basic trigger categories include:
* Emotional - Eating to relieve boredom, stress, or anxiety
* Psychological - You may eat in response to negative, self-destructive thoughts
* Environmental/Situational - You may eat simply because the opportunity is there. Also in this category is the habit of eating while doing another activity, such as reading or watching TV.
Do any of these signs and symptoms describe you? If so, don't despair - there are treatment options available for emotional overeaters. Check with your healthcare provider for advice on therapists or specialists in your area.
Tips on Overcoming Emotional Overeating
Emotional overeating is almost a joke in our society - movies, TV shows, and the resulting stereotypes cause many of us to laugh about how much ice cream it takes to get over a boyfriend, or how much chocolate we need to overcome rejection. But for those who actually suffer from emotional overeating, it's anything but funny.
First, it helps to be honest with yourself and identify if you have this problem or not. Here are some tips to help you know if you are an emotional overeater or not.
1. Keep a food diary. In this diary, in addition to noting everything you eat, also note how you feel when you eat - sad, angry, upset, elated, joyful, etc. Don't judge yourself or make any changes to your habits when you begin keeping this diary; you're not trying to impress anyone or prove anything. You are trying to get an honest picture of your eating habits. After several weeks, a pattern will probably emerge.
2. Are you under a lot of stress? Do you find that you gain weight when under stress? There are other factors that can come into play, of course, causing you to gain weight. But this is something to consider if you are trying to figure out if you have an emotional overeating problem or not.
3. Get advice from a therapist or specialist if you really want to find out if you are a victim of emotional overeating.
How Can It Be Overcome?
If you have identified emotional overeating as something you suffer from, you may benefit from some tips on overcoming this problem. Here are some to consider.
1. Seek stress relief
If you overeat in response to stress, it makes sense to find alternative ways to relieve and manage that stress. Meditation, Yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and other regular forms of exercise and relaxation techniques can help alleviate the stress that is triggering your overeating.
2. Swap goodies for goodies
Try to find substitutions for the comfort foods or food rewards you seek when you are feeling positive or negative emotions. Having something in place already is key - keep a list handy or other reminder that will prompt you to turn to the alternative rather than the candy bar. (Some alone time, a short walk, reading a magazine or book for pleasure, doing your nails, etc. are all little emotional pick-me-ups that you can implement in place of food.)
3. Why am I doing this?
Before eating, ask yourself why you are doing it. Do you feel genuinely hungry? If you're truly hungry, you may feel fatigued and, of course, feel hunger in your stomach. Ask yourself if you really feel hungry or if you are seeking an energy boost or a calming effect instead.
How to Eat to Stop Emotional Overeating
When you think of stopping emotional overeating, does it seem like an impossible goal? You're not alone - many people who suffer from this problem feel imprisoned and helpless. It can seem like you are unable to break free from the overwhelming emotions and habits. But there's good news - it's a treatable problem.
Being honest with yourself is an important first step. Emotional overeaters tend to judge themselves pretty harshly, but don't - you're not an isolated case or some kind of freak. It's a sign of strength to seek help! It means you've identified the problem.
If you're struggling with this problem, there are some things you can do to get things under control while you're seeking professional help. Here are some tips.
Your Grocery List
When an emotional moment hits and you head for the refrigerator or pantry, what kind of foods do you usually go for? Often, emotional overeaters head for high-calorie comfort foods like ice cream, chips, or candy bars. But you can't eat those things if they are not in your house! Here are some examples of foods to put on your grocery list in place of the ones you may be tempted to buy. (Another tip - buy only the foods on your list. Compulsive buying of food is tempting.)
* Brown rice (instead of white rice)
* Millet (instead of or in addition to rice)
* Fresh fruits and vegetables (rather than canned)
* Low-fat, low-calorie yogurt (rather than ice cream)
* Popcorn kernels for air popping (rather than chips and fatty snacks)
* Lean protein like fish, turkey, and chicken (instead of deli meats and processed meats like hotdogs and bologna)
* Natural, healthy cooking oils like olive and safflower oil (instead of shortening, lard, or unhealthy oils)
Don't Crash Diet
It's good to be proactive in solving problems, and emotional eating is no exception. If you try to crash diet, you may find yourself eating more after the crash diet is over. So, rather than stopping eating everything you love, try some of these tips.
* Allow yourself to have a dish of frozen yogurt each week as a treat. This approach tends to be easier than just cutting out all frozen treats. You could use this approach with other "naughty" foods, too - it may be easier to resist if you know you are going to have that food on Saturday (or whatever day of the week you choose to have a small treat).
* Boost your nutrition with a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.
* Increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods.
Eat Regular Meals
Experts recommend regular mealtimes as a way to combat emotional overeating. If it's not "time" for food, then you may be better able to hold off on eating until it is time. Also, eating regular meals helps you to be deliberate about your intake of nutritious foods. And finally, having regular meal times tends to make for a more relaxed eating experience, which is the direct opposite of anxiety-driven overeating.