This coronavirus self-isolation makes you feel stressed? Sad? Bored? Angry? As for me, it does make me feel stressed. I eat when I’m stressed. I have been staying at home for almost two weeks now. And Arizona is in lockdown until April, 30th. So staying home all day and night is so stressful for me. I am a person who loves going out with friends, enjoys being in nature, craves to do fun things with family or friends. I miss going to my international folk dancing class.
I mean, I do appreciate the opportunity of spending more time with my family. Staying at home also means I can take care of my baby, teach her stuff, and play with her. But there are times during this isolation, I feel anxious. Sometimes I pace back and forth around the kitchen, stare at the fridge or pantry. Often times I just give up and take out some snacks and drink a glass of soda. I realize I might be experiencing emotional eating. At that time, food can calm my mind and release my stress for a moment.
Now, I’m curious. Let’s find out what is it and learn together ways to deal with emotional eating!
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is when you use food as a way to deal with your emotion, not eating because you are hungry. When you are angry, sad, stressed, and so on, some of you may be looking for food to calm your emotions. Food is usually used as a distraction. At this time, you choose to eat alone so that you get comfort compared to thinking about your problems or conditions that hurt you.
In times of stress, the body experiences an increase in the hormone cortisol in response to stress. Currently, you also experience an increase in appetite as the body’s effort to provide the energy needed to respond to stress. Eventually, you will find food to comfort you.
Emotional eating is usually associated with negative feelings, such as when you are feeling lonely, sad, anxious, afraid, angry, bored, or stressed. These emotions usually cause you to eat more without thinking about what food and how much you eat. If this is done continuously, it does not rule out emotional eating can affect your weight, health, and overall well-being.
Emotional eating does not only occur in women, but men can experience the same thing. However, many men do not realize and admit that they experience emotional eating. This is because the ego or prestige of men, afraid of being considered moody like a woman.
The difference between physical and emotional hunger:
Emotional eating can cause weight gain
People who tend to associate food with comfort and not for reasons of hunger are usually more vulnerable to emotional eating. Conscious or unconscious, you usually eat when you are facing a difficult problem, being stressed, or bored. When you feel these emotions, you can just spend a lot of food without thinking.
Foods consumed during emotional eating are usually those that contain lots of calories and are high in carbohydrates. For example, ice cream, biscuits, chocolate, snacks, french fries, pizza, hamburgers, and others. Not to mention, if you often make food as an escape to release stress, you might be able to eat more than three times a day in large quantities. This is what can cause weight gain, even obesity if it continues.
Emotional eating can be formed since childhood
As many as 40% of individuals tend to eat more when under stress, while around 40% eat less, and the remaining 20% do not experience changes in the amount of food when under stress.
This emotional eating pattern can be formed indirectly from childhood. For example, parents offer you a meal when you are sad, lonely, or angry to calm you down and make you feel comfortable. In addition, parents who often reward your favorite foods when you achieve something also support emotional eating behavior. Therefore, do not make food as a gift or punishment for your child.
How to deal with emotional eating?
The effects of emotional eating could potentially make your health worse. It’s best to deal with emotional eating this way:
Learn to recognize your hunger
Before you start eating, you should ask yourself whether you eat because you really feel hungry. Usually, if you feel really hungry, you will feel the signs, such as your stomach will growl, you have difficulty concentrating, and easy to feel irritable. If you don’t feel really hungry, maybe you can delay your meal time later.
Take notes – Make food records
You can reduce your emotional eating habits by making meal records. In these notes, you can write down a list of food you eat, your mood when you eat, are you really hungry at that time, and at what time you eat. You can study your own notes. If you find a time when you overeating while your feelings are emotional, then at other times you can avoid it more. You can release your emotions first before eating, take a walk, or do your favorite activities, this method is healthier.
Keeping a journal or meal record can raise your awareness while eating so that it can help overcome emotional eating.
Find other activities as an escape from your emotions
If you are emotional and want to eat, you should immediately find other activities that can calm you, such as listening to music, writing, reading, playing musical instruments, painting, sports, etc. This can make you less likely to see food as emotional satisfaction. That way, your emotional eating habits will gradually diminish.
Make a hunger scale
When your stomach is rumbling, try to remember what time you last ate. If the distance is only 2 hours, maybe you are not hungry, it could be the body’s reaction to dehydration. Overcome it by drinking some water. In addition, make a hunger scale to understand between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Make 10 levels of hunger scale, starting from a starving scale, to very full.
Focus on food
AVOID eating while doing other activities because it will make you unaware of how much food you eat and is not sensitive to satiety signals from the brain. Research shows that someone who eats while watching TV or plays a cellphone will eat more than people who focus solely on his food.
Pay attention to your consumption of balanced food
When you experience emotional eating, you should still choose healthy foods. An imbalance of nutrients can cause the body to “ask” for other foods because there are nutrients that have not been met.
Set meal schedules
You can set your own eating schedule. When to eat and when to stop.
Have fruits and vegetables
This method is a healthier alternative that you can do if the tips above are not effective in helping you to avoid emotional eating. Even though you are eating while having an unsettled emotion, at least you eat healthy food.
Alternatives to emotional eating
Sometimes we just have to find ways to feed our emotions with “food” that can give us a sense of emotional fulfillment.
If you don’t know how to deal with your emotions and cannot control your emotional eating habit, try these tips.
If you’re depressed or lonely, you should try to talk to someone who always makes you feel better. Call a family or friend. Do a facetime or video call with your best friend. If you have pets, you can also try to play with them. Playing with your dog or cat might just be a great diversion. Or, you can look at photo albums, find a favorite photo or cherished memento.
If you’re anxious, you should try to divert your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a walk to a park. During the isolation or lockdown, parks are empty. You can also drive around for a bit just to make you feel better from the feeling of being stuck in the house.
If you’re feeling exhausted, try to lay down on your comfortable sofa or bed, treat yourself with a cup of chocolate or tea, take a shower, light some aromatherapy candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket when you lay down.
If you’re bored, try to read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors (during this coronavirus lockdown, you may enjoy walking around your backyard or garden), or turn to an activity you enjoy doing (painting, playing piano, writing journals, scrapbooking, etc.).
There you have it. Now you know what is emotional eating and ways to deal with it. However, if you have experienced emotional eating and have difficulty stopping, try to consult with a psychologist or nutritionist who understands and learns the concept of mindful eating or intuitive eating.
Stay safe, happy, and healthy!
I’ve learned through trial and error what makes my days at home better. Here are some tips for those where social isolation is just ramping up:
1. Stick to your normal schedule! Wake up and go to sleep at the same time, eat and exercise at the same time.
2. Make an effort to call (video if possible) at least 1 person a day.
3. Don’t neglect self-care: stick to a healthy diet and spoil yourself with activities you enjoy like bubble baths, listening to music, online shopping, or playing with pets.
4. Limit watching, reading, or listening to the news.
5. Go for a long walk outside (if you’re allowed to and can maintain a safe distance from others).
6. Make a daily list of tasks/activities and try to get everything done.
7. Recognise signs of stress in others and keep this in mind when arguments arise. Try to be extra kind and patient with others.
8. Be extra kind and patient with yourself. This is a tough, novel situation and it would be unrealistic to expect ourselves to be as productive as we normally are under the current circumstances.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Thank you for reading today’s topic: “I Eat when I’m Stressed!” – Ways To Deal with Emotional Eating