For a majority of overweight persons, their excess weight gain can be tied to years of emotional eating. Emotional eating can be defined as eating for any reason other than hunger. For example, if you eat pizza to celebrate because you’re in a good mood, that’s emotional eating. If you eat a carton of ice cream because you just went through a break-up, that’s emotional eating.
By being aware of signs of emotional eating, you can work to overcome this unhealthy behavior. Sometimes simply being made aware of an unhealthy habit is half the battle for ridding yourself of that habit.
Here are eight signs of emotional eating to monitor in the never-ending challenge of maintaining a healthy body weight:
1. A sudden craving. Physical hunger cravings are not brought on suddenly. One does not go from content to immediately desiring to ravage the refrigerator unless it is through emotional eating. If you are hungry all-of-a-sudden it is almost certainly a sign of emotional eating.
2. When only one food will do. If you are hungry in the truest physical sense, you are open to many options. Emotional eating often entails desiring one specific type of food. “I need chocolate right now,” would be the phrase of an emotional eater.
3. A willingness to go to considerable lengths to get food. Those with a physical hunger can usually remain patient for a little while in order to get food. Emotional eating involves an urgent willingness to go out of your way to get food. One might find themselves getting into the car at 11:00 pm to bolt to the nearest late-night fast food establishment in a crisis of emotional eating.
4. Some emotional trauma lies in the wake. Emotional eating usually occurs a few hours or days following some form of emotional trauma. It could be a break-up, the loss of a loved one, or even something more simple like having been involved in a fender-bender earlier that day. In most cases of emotional eating, there is some trigger that lies in the person’s not-too-distant past.
5. Feelings of guilt after eating. When you eat to satisfy a physical craving, there would be no reason for feeling guilty afterwards. Feelings of guilt after eating are always tied to a bout of emotional eating. These guilty feelings after emotional eating are tied to an inner sense that you ate to satisfy emotional hunger.
6. Unconscious binge eating. Ever discover you just consumed an entire bag of potato chips without really noticing? That’s emotional eating. Any form of excessive eating where you consume a ton of food mindlessly, typically while doing something else like watching TV, is an example of emotional eating.
7. An inability to be satisfied. Unlike physical hunger, emotional eating is not easily satisfied. A balanced diet will satisfy a physical hunger. Emotional eating often involves an insatiable appetite where it almost seems impossible to eat too much.
8. You anchor emotional vocabulary to your food. Using terms like “decadent” or “indulgent” or “tempting” in describing your food cravings, or using a baby voice to talk about the foods you want to eat, is a sign of emotional eating. This sign of emotional eating involves assigning language for living things to non-living food that is not capable of engaging with you emotionally.