What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is the practice of consuming large quantities of food -- usually "comfort" or junk foods -- in response to negative feelings.
Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger
- Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, whereas physical hunger comes on more gradually and doesn't demand you to eat at that exact moment.
- When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush.
- Emotional hunger can cause you to eat without realizing that you're actually eating, but when you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.
- Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn't need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.
- Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. You feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.
- Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs.
What causes emotional eating?
- Boredom or feelings of emptiness
- Lack of sleep
- Childhood habits
- Family & relationship issues
- Social influences ("Everyone else is eating so I should eat too.")
- Chew gum
- Avoid eating alone
- Be aware of your hunger level and the amount of food you're eating
- Get support from friends and family