Reaching for Ice cream or a bag of chips after a long, stressful day of work is completely normal. Foods high in sugar and carbohydrates tend to make us feel good. Comfort foods like french fries, ice cream and pizza can change your mood by activating the brain’s reward system. Activating the brain’s reward system releases the hormone dopamine, which leads to the overall feeling of being content. The hormone dopamine is responsible for the satisfaction you feel after a strenuous workout or the joy you may feel attending a social event.
The hormone dopamine can also cause an individual to become addicted to the actions that stimulate the release of this feel good hormone. An addiction to eating is referred to as a binge eating disorder or emotional eating. Emotional eating can lead to weight gain and other serious health problems. Receiving help for emotional eating requires you to figure out what your emotional eating triggers are and how to correct or avoid them:
1. Stress response
When your body is under continuous stress it releases hormones like cortisol, the stress hormone, and reduces hormones like dopamine, resulting in depression or a feeling of being discontent. Eating comfort food is an almost effortless way of self-medicating. Instead of eating when stressed, you could try healthy alternatives like exercising, listening to music or meditation. You should try tackling the problem that is causing your problem head-on if possible. Tweaking your daily routine, speaking to your boss about your workload or asking for help with children, are all examples of things you could do to reduce stress. Continuous stress by itself can cause high blood pressure, increased risk of heart, and increases your risk of type 2 diabetes but when stressed is compiled onto emotional eating you increase your chances even more.
Feelings of having no purpose or a lack of meaning in one’s current life situation can lead to emotional eating. Eating can provide a distraction from the monotonous aspects of everyday life and unconsciously becomes a habit. Instead of Binge eating when bored, one must become consciously aware of their eating habits and strategically plan out meals throughout the day. To address the issue of boredom one could try to fill their time with productive things to do or seek professional help.
Feelings of hatred about your body or your personality can be an emotional eating trigger. Binge eating may temporarily make you feel better, but afterward, you will only feel worse about overeating. Not only will you feel worse afterward, but you could begin to put on weight, which leads to even more negative feelings about your body. Resolving self-esteem issues will require you to focus on healthy habits like exercising, yoga, eating healthy or seeing a therapist.
4. Unconsciously over-eating
Sometimes, one can find themselves emotional eating because of childhood habits or just because their food is in front of you. Bad eating habits can be unintentionally picked up in your childhood. Maybe you were constantly rewarded with food or picked up a habit of eating every time there was food available. Breaking old habits can be tough ,but awareness is the key. Planning out your meals for the day can help you avoid unnecessary snacking or over indulging. Unconsciously overeating can still lead to high blood pressure, obesity, increased risk of type 2 diabetes and increased risk of heartache.