In recent years, greater attention has been focused on the problem of emotional eating for both women and men. In fact, some experts have gone so far as to claim that most weight gain can be blamed on emotional eating. It has been estimated that as much as 75 percent of overeating is attributed to the emotions.
For a number of people, overeating stems from anxiety. For instance, if you find yourself consuming an entire bag of potato chips, it’s possible that anxiety is the cause. While many people realize that alcohol and illegal drugs are not an antidote to anxiety, they may not understand that indulging in comfort food in order to combat anxiety can be dangerous as well.
In other cases, overeating may be the result of depression. If you feel tired, hopeless, and have lost interest in your normal activities, you may be suffering from a depressive episode. In order to deal with these uncomfortable feelings, people may turn to food in an effort to cheer up. The problem is that the food can lead to weight gain, which can lead to further depression.
At times, overeating may be a symptom of boredom. An individual may figure that he or she has nothing better to do than overeat. This can be particularly true when one is watching television or surfing the Internet. Rather than trying to determine a cause for the boredom, an individual may just try to “fix” it by indulging in high-fat, high-calorie food.
How do you know if you are an emotional eater? Ask yourself some key questions: Do I tend to eat when I’m worried? Scared? Sad? Do I find that eating lifts my spirits? Am I spending more time eating than engaging in other activities I enjoy? Do my binges come after I’ve suffered disappointment? Am I turning to food in order to deal with the death of a loved one…a divorce…or the defeat of my favorite team? If the answers to any of these questions is “yes,” you may be overeating purely for emotional reasons.
One effective step you can take is to identify the triggers for your emotional eating. Do you tend to binge in mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or right before bedtime? Are you snacking while watching television, while at the computer, or when you’re sitting in your favorite chair? By asking yourself these questions, you can identify the time of day when you overeat, as well as the location for your binging. With this information, you can learn to re-direct your behavior to less fattening pursuits.