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Are You An Emotional Eater?

Are You An Emotional Eater? Does food serve as a distraction from uncomfortable moments in your life? If so, emotional eating may be your way of avoiding emotional discomfort.   What is emotion...

Are You An Emotional Eater?

Does food serve as a distraction from uncomfortable moments in your life? If so, emotional eating may be your way of avoiding emotional discomfort.  

What is emotional eating?

"Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger," says Jane Jakubczak, a registered dietitian at the University of Maryland. "Instead of the physical symptom of hunger initiating the eating, an emotion triggers the eating."

So we eat when we are stressed or anxious, lonely, sad and depressed, or going through PMS, but also when we are happy. In other words a positive emotion could be the trigger or a negative one the result is the same: high calorie intake.  Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.

At one time or another we all experiment emotional eating, most of the experts are considering that when someone does it occasionally, it's not a big problem. However, when a person's relationship with food and behaviors around food start to influence either mental or physical health, or the person's ability to live a normal, healthy life, then the person may be suffering from binge eating disorder.

Our body chemistry is complex, many different hormones and other substances influence how we feel. In this case the link between physical hunger and emotion is Serotonin a neurotransmitter (a chemical involved in the transmission of nerve impulses between nerve cells) that's formed in the brain and primarily found in the brain, the lining of the digestive tract, and in blood platelets. In the brain, serotonin's main effects include improving mood and giving you that "satisfied" feeling from food.

Certain foods that increase serotonin levels aren't the healthiest choices either. Believe it or not, candy and sweets, which are simple carbohydrates, have the greatest impact, but the effects will only last 1 - 2 hours. After consumption of a carbohydrate-rich meal, the hormone insulin is secreted, which causes a lowering of the blood levels of most amino acids (the building blocks of protein), in response to this the production of serotonin increases.

Many of us learn that food can bring comfort, at least temporarily. It is time to acknowledge that you’re eating in response to emotions or certain situations have more than likely become a pattern.  You now need to learn to break that habit!

To identify what triggers your emotional eating, keep a food diary that records what and when you eat as well as what stressors, thoughts, and emotions you identify while you eat.

Develop alternatives to grabbing those “comfort foods”.  When you start to reach for that …, try one of these activities instead.

  • Take a bath
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Go for a walk
  • Listen to music
  • Go to a Yoga class
  • Chat with a friend or family member
  • Do housework, laundry or yard work
  • Go to the gym
  • Write a letter
  • Or do any other activity until the impulse to eat has passed

Developing new habits and distracting yourself at times may not be enough to handle the emotional pain that leads to overeating.  You may want to try:

  • Relaxation exercises
  • Meditation
  • Individual or group counseling

If you’ve been an emotional eater for a long time, you may find it difficult to stop on your own.  If you are depressed or have low self-esteem, it may be helpful to talk with a therapist or a dietitian. Finding a support group for people dealing with similar issues can provide needed guidance for dealing with emotional eating. Talking with your health care provider about your concerns is a good place to start.

For additional information on these techniquesComputer Technology Articles, contact your doctor.

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