MENTAL HEALTH AND NUTRITION

Emotional eating: Its causes and how to deal with it

Emotional eating is more common with women than in men.

In Summary

•Emotional eating is caused by stress, hormonal changes or mixed hunger feelings. 

•Emotional eating is more common with women than in men.

Stress eating
Stress eating
Image: Courtesy: creativemarket.com

We are in tough and trying times; the pandemic, inflation, election pressure and our own personal or financial problems.

These pressures can lead one to find pleasure in food, which researchers at Harvard University have attributed that to how our brain responds to what we are eating.

There is no one cause of eating disorders, however, depression and anxiety symptoms and behaviors have for a long time been linked to contributing to eating disorder development.

In the study, the researchers looked at the brain’s response to sugar and fat, they found that emotional eating is more common with women than in men.

Emotional eating is caused by stress, hormonal changes or mixed hunger feelings. They associated this with “eating for comfort.”

“At that point, they eat not because they are hungry, but because they are signalling the reward systems of the brain. They then start binging or overeating because it releases neurochemicals that make them (temporarily) feel better,” they said.

Image: Courtesy: vabeachcounseling.com

According to the Mayo Clinic, this emotional hunger can never be satisfied with food.

“Emotional overeating can make you feel good; but afterwards, you are left with feelings of guilt, shame and powerlessness. Often the guilt may lead to circular dieting,” they said in a statement.

“Diets don’t fail because you have a lack of willpower or control, they fail because your emotional needs are not being met. When we ignore these emotions, they continue many times with an unhealthy eating pattern.”

Instead of binging on food or drugs that are only a temporary solution, finding other ways to deal with those negative emotions is often the first step towards overcoming emotional eating.

Take a walk, go to the gym or start working out at home, decompress in a spa, write in a journal or talk to a therapist who can guide you through the whole process.

At times, facing the problem is the only solution, don’t be hard on yourself, learn from your setback and use it as an opportunity to learn, and plan for the future.

Clean out your pantry of junk, and start practising a healthy lifestyle, which greatly impacts your mental health. Good luck.

Replace junk with fruits, vegetables and water which are a healthy option
Replace junk with fruits, vegetables and water which are a healthy option
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU