Emotional overeating occurs when a person uses food to comfort or soothe themselves. The person who emotionally overeats will do so to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings. Emotional overeaters can be fat, normal sized, or even thin. All have an eating disorder, or a dysfunctional relationship with food.
Why do people emotionally overeat?
Many people learned in childhood that feelings were things to be avoided or ignored. Some come from families of food pushers. Those are people who use food as a salve for everything. If you’re happy or sad, mad or glad, there’s food shoved your way. Some people also had significant trauma in their lives like sexual assault or abuse. They use food to deal with their feelings surrounding these issues. It’s not a bad thing, but it is something that can affect their health and well-being.
Why does the US have such a big obesity problem?
In the US, we are ripe to succumb to the disease of emotional overeating and I do believe it’s more of a food addiction. We have a culture where food comes into play for everything. We are conditioned to eat to handle emotions and just about everything else. We are given mixed messages too that make us desire to eat and then shame us for eating. This sets up a very big emotional dilemma, one that many people don’t recognize, and fewer understand.
How can we begin to overcome emotional overeating?
First, you have to recognize and accept that you eat for emotional reasons as well as physical reasons. Well, in fact, you may not even know when you’re physically hungry because you’re so busy feeding the emotional side of yourself. That’s why we start with the food/mood log. It will help you get in touch with why and when you eat so that we can see if there are patterns we can examine further and work on. Using a food/mood log and the hunger and satiety scale, which we will discuss next time in more depth, can help us figure out our pattens and begin to alter them.