In my combination nutrition and mental health practice, I spend a lot of time talking with clients about their eating habits. Many of my clients come to me because they want to change their relationship with food. One statement I frequently hear from clients is they want to eliminate their habit of eating for emotional reasons. In our society, food is often used for comfort or celebration- think ice cream for good grades or after a breakup. In some cases, this behavior causes little distress but in others it leads to negative self-talk and feeling guilty. One way I try to help people change their habits is by trying to help them identify when they are eating for emotional vs physical reasons. If you have ever questioned your eating behaviors take look at the list below that delineates indications that emotions may be driving your eating behaviors.
- Your hungry is sudden and intense.
- You crave a specific food, especially “comfort food” like chips, cookies, chocolate or ice cream.
- Comes on after an upsetting situation- anger, fear, loneliness, boredom are all common emotions that drive emotional eating.
- Feels as if you are eating on auto pilot, with little recognition of how much you are eating.
- Feels out of your control.
- Does not stop in response to cues of fullness.
- Is followed by feelings of guilt and/or shame.
If some of these signs resonant with you and you would like to make a change, it might be time to examine your relationship with food.