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Are you an Emotional Eater?

Are you the type of person that lunges for a cupcake when the going gets tough? Or scoffs chocolate biscuits when you feel tired, depressed or upset? If so, then you might just be an emotional eater.

What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is a term used to describe when individuals consume large amounts of food, normally junk food, in what is similar to a binge-eating episode. Essentially, it’s eating for the sake of eating, rather than actually being hungry.

As an occasional luxury, eating something decadent isn’t necessarily detrimental. However, when a habit is formed and an individual regularly turns to food for a fast emotional boost, problems can quickly arise.

It’s estimated that up to 75% of overeating comes from an inability to handle and manage negative emotions properly. And this is where emotional eating comes into play.

Instead of addressing difficult situations or negative emotions, individual’s kick-start a habit of emotional eating, which can often lead to weight gain, low self-confidence and an array of other mental and physical repercussions.

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What causes emotional eating?
There are a variety of triggers that can encourage emotional eating, but it’s important to realise that triggers are unique and to each individual. It’s also possible to have more than one trigger and for triggers to change and transform over time.

But identifying what spurs emotional eating is often the first step in overcoming this condition.

Here are some of the most common emotional eating triggers:
– Social eating (eating to ‘fit in’)
– Food deprivation, including starvation and self-imposed diets
– To combat feelings of stress, anger, stress, boredom and unhappiness
– As a reward
– As a habit, reinforced by childhood experiences

How to overcome emotional eating
First and foremost, if you believe you might be suffering from emotional eating, it’s important that you see an expert. Your first port of call could be to your family doctor who can then recommend a specialist.

In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to limit the impact emotional eating has on your life. They include:

1. Understanding the difference between hunger and eating to self-soothe. Before you reach for a treat, rate your hunger on a scale of one to ten. Anything less than a seven, and you should pull your hand back.
2. Once you’ve determined if hunger is actually the element determining your eating habits, you can then take steps to eat what your body is craving. And while you might think your body wants donuts and cupcakes, keep searching for the real source. Our bodies crave real nutrition and real food, neither of which can be found in highly processed junk foods.
3. Learn to recognise when you’re full and then immediately stop eating. It takes around 15 to 20 minutes for your body to ‘catch up’ and recognise when it is satisfied, so eat slowly and take breaks in between mouthfuls. A good target is to eat until you’re 80 to 90 percent full.
4. Be trigger savvy. Discover what your emotional triggers are and then when you feel start to feel tempted by chocolate and treats, distract yourself by going for a walk, talking to a friend or getting up and stretching.
5. Stop classifying foods as good or bad. Instead label them as ‘everyday’ foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meat and grains, and ‘luxury’ or ‘every now and then’ foods that are occasional treats.

Joining Fat Camps or Health retreats programs help to examine your body and select proper diet and exercise for quick results.

And finally, don’t forget to use your support network. Your friends, family and even co-workers can all help you overcome emotional eating. So rely on them for support, guidance and the emotional pick-me-up that we all need some days.

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