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Is Emotional Eating A Disorder

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What Are The Eating Behaviors Of People With Emotional Eating

Emotional Intelligence In Eating Disorders

People who exhibit emotional eating behaviors typically enjoy energy-dense snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, cakes, pastries and biscuits. Each emotional eater has their own personal trigger foods. When combined, emotional eating and low satiety can turn a small snack into a full-blown calorie bomb; what starts as one cookie can easily become a whole box.

Find Other Ways To Cope With Stress

Discovering another way to deal with negative emotions is often the first step toward overcoming emotional eating. This could mean writing in a journal, reading a book, or finding a few minutes to otherwise relax and decompress from the day.

It takes time to shift your mindset from reaching for food to engaging in other forms of stress relief, so experiment with a variety of activities to find what works for you.

Physical Impact Of Stress

There are also some physical reasons why stress and strong emotions can cause a person to overeat:

  • High cortisol levels: Initially, stress causes the appetite to decrease so that the body can deal with the situation. If the stress does not let up, another hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol increases appetite and can cause someone to overeat.
  • Cravings: High cortisol levels from stress can increase food cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress is also associated with increased hunger hormones, which may also contribute to cravings for unhealthy foods.
  • Sex: Some research shows that women are more likely to use food to deal with stress than men are, while men are more likely than women to smoke or use alcohol.

It is very easy to mistake emotional hunger for physical hunger. But there are characteristics that distinguish them.

Recognizing these subtle differences is the first step towards helping to stop emotional eating patterns.

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What Is Emotional Eating

Emotional eating refers to eating in away or eating certain foods that help soothe negative emotions, such as loneliness, sadness or fear. Stress can affect eating habits. Some people eat less when they are upset. Other people eat more when stressed. Although emotional eating can sabotage a persons health and lifestyle goals, it does not necessarily indicate that the person has an eating disorder. Emotional eating often occurs with certain eating disorders. For example, research has found that people with binge eating disorder are more likely to have a binge eating episode after experiencing negative emotions.1;However, to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, signs and symptoms other than emotional eating must be present, as well.

What Is The Difference Between Emotional Eating And Binge Eating

Emotional Eating: Overcome Your Eating Disorder and Stop ...

Michelle May

There is a lot of information out there about emotional eating, and binge eating articles have become more common since Binge Eating Disorder was formally recognized in 2013. The focus of this article will be the answer to a question I get a lot in my work: What is the difference between emotional eating and binge eating?

Your Perceptions

The question about the differences between emotional eating and binge eating is relevant to me because we host a Mindful Eating Retreat for Emotional Eating and Binge Eating every year.

So, I posted a question on : Are you more likely to participate in a M

indful Eating for Binge Eating Retreat or a Mindful Eating for Emotional Eating Retreat if the content and format are exactly the same? Why?

We received over 40 thoughtful and insightful responses that helped us understand more about your perceptions and needs.

Your answers were split almost exactly down the middle between the two titles for a variety of reasons. But your comments were the most revealing, because they showed us that not only is there a lot of overlap, there is also a lot of confusion.

For example, a user named Jeff commented: Tough one! For me personally they used to go hand in hand sort of a which came first? The chicken or the egg?

What is Emotional Eating?

And theres nothing wrong with that! Emotional eating is normal! It only becomes a problem when it evolves into the primary way you cope with or avoid your feelings.

  • Stressed
  • Angry
  • Sad

Read Also: How Common Are Eating Disorders In Adolescence

How Do Our Emotions Cause Hunger

Our body is an incredible thing. Our mind can actually convince us that we are feeling hungry when, in fact, we are just experiencing certain emotions.

Many times your emotions will cause you to want foods you dont usually eat, and youll be able to recognise emotional eating in that way. Just think of the classic rom-com movies that show the character eating a tub of ice cream after a breakup.

But thats not always the case. There are a lot of different things going on in your body that cause you to crave certain foods based on certain emotions or memories.

You see, there are actually chemicals in the brain that affect our appetites and our mood.;

K-State research gave a great example: Stress causes an elevation in brain chemicals that increase the desire for fatty foods and carbohydrates. So, if you often have the urge for chocolate when youre feeling down, its because your body knows that the carbohydrate in the chocolate will cause a release of serotonin and endorphins. And this will improve your mood, giving you that feel-good feeling.;

Its no wonder its hard to stop the cycle of emotional eating. Your body sees it as a reward! And the more pleasure you experience, the more you continue to seek that pleasure.;

In this example of emotional eating, that happens to be chocolate.;

Unconscious Eating Vs Mindful Eating

Many eating disorder professionals believe that emotional eating is triggered by unawareness. We often pick at our food when we are finished with our meal even though we are no longer hungry or eating snacks just because they are placed in front of us.

Mindless or unconscious eating is a direct result of being unaware of being present in the moment. It is important to be mindful of what we are thinking, feeling, and doing in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness when it comes to eating can prevent us from eating endless amounts of food without even being aware.;

How do I know if I should be worried?;What if this gets worse?;These are a couple of thoughts and questions, not only for those concerned for their loved ones but also for individuals who are unsure about whether they are abusing food and whether or not they should be concerned and seek help for their behaviors.

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Unhealthy Habits Developed In Childhood

Kids are often rewarded for good behaviour such as good grades, finishing chores and more with sweet treats.;

When you were feeling sad as a child were you offered sweets? Or was there always a trip to the ice cream parlour waiting after a dentists appointment?;

These treats are often intended to illicite a certain behaviour or compliance as a child. And they can be very successful. Sometimes too successful!

If you find yourself regularly rewarding or celebrating accomplishments with a lavish meal, extra dessert or other food, you are probably emotional eating.

Eating Disorders Awareness: Emotional Issues Involved With Eating Disorders

How To Overcome Binge Eating Disorder: My Personal Emotional & Compulsive Eating Story

Eating disorders are devastating mental illnesses brought on by a combination of factors. These factors may include emotional and personality disorders, family pressures, a genetic or biologic susceptibility, physical or sexual abuse, and a culture in which there is an overabundance of food and an obsession with thinness. Eating disorders are generally categorized as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorders, or not otherwise specified .

Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and an unwillingness to maintain a healthy or normal body weight. Persons with anorexia severely restrict their food intake; some attempt to lose weight by vomiting and/or the use of diuretics and laxatives. Bulimia nervosa describes a style of binging and purging. It usually begins in early adolescence when young women attempt restrictive diets. When these diets fail, the adolescent reacts by binge eating and purging through vomiting or taking laxatives, diet pills, drugs to reduce fluids, and excessive exercising. A third category called “not otherwise specified” was established to define eating disorders not specifically defined as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. This category includes binge eating without purging, and other behaviors or anorexia and bulimia accompanied by normal weight or vomiting after eating small amounts of food.

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How To Determine If Youre An Emotional Eater

When compulsive eating or compulsive overeating becomes your destressing method, you get addicted to emotional eating. Eating disorder symptoms should be alarming to you.

  • You subconsciously eat when you are stressed.
  • You get addicted to junk food with zero nutrition or calories.
  • You seek relief in food items like cake, ice-cream, cookies, or chocolate.
  • You feel random food craving even though there is no such sort of dish available.
  • You face trouble losing weight even if you know the technicalities of quantitative eating.
  • You eat in response to your emotions like joy, anger, anxiety, stress, depression, or tiredness.
  • Your eating habit goes out of control to the extent that you cant stop yourself even when you are not hungry.
  • You dont eat to feed your hunger but to feel happy and satisfy your emotions.
  • You dont want others to know what you eat and how you eat.
  • You use emotionally charged adjectives to describe your food.
  • You feel guilty for eating like this at a later stage.

Types Of Eating Disorder

Individuals struggling with an eating disorder will have obsessive thoughts about food all day, every day. The individual thinks about calories, taste, food avoidance, or where to buy food. They will spend hours meal planning, counting calories, exercising, and engaging in binging or purging activities to the point that it affects their everyday life.

The most common eating disorders are binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa, and each one of these eating disorders can present differently in each individual and carry lifelong consequences.

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Emotional Eating And Binge Eating Disorder

Manouchehr Saljoughian, PharmD, PhDAlta Bates Summit Medical CenterBerkeley, California

US Pharm. 2021;46:36-38.

Emotional eating refers to the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions. Eating is used as a way to suppress or soothe emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, or boredom. Emotional eating was first reported to be significantly related to bulimia, supporting the hypothesis that emotion is a factor in overeating in bulimic patients.1 Major life events or, more commonly, the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt weight-loss efforts. Emotional eating contributes to binge eating episodes, and persons with binge eating disorder have a significantly greater tendency to eat in response to negative circumstances.1

This column will briefly distinguish between binge eating and emotional eating and will discuss signs and symptoms, causes, and current medical and psychological treatments.

Alternatives To Emotional Eating

What Is An Emotional Eating Disorder? â Healthy Living Blog

If youre depressed or lonely,;call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.

If youre anxious,;expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.

If youre exhausted,;treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.

If youre bored,;read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy .

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Signs And Symptoms Of Disordered Eating

Signs and symptoms associated with disordered eating are extremely similar to those seen in eating disorders. The main difference is severity and frequency.

Signs and symptoms seen in eating disorders are much more severe and frequent compared to those seen in disordered eating. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Extreme dieting
  • Changes in weight
  • Social withdrawal

If you or a loved one are coping with an eating disorder, contact the;National Eating Disorders Association Helpline;for support at 1-800-931-2237.;

For more mental health resources, see our;National Helpline Database.

Major Theories Behind Eating To Cope

Current research suggests that certain individual factors may increase one’s likelihood of using emotional eating as a coping strategy. The inadequate affect regulation theory posits that individuals engage in emotional eating because they believe overeating alleviates negative feelings. Escape theory builds upon inadequate affect regulation theory by suggesting that people not only overeat to cope with negative emotions, but they find that overeating diverts their attention away from a stimuli that is threatening self-esteem to focus on a pleasurable stimuli like food. Restraint theory suggests that overeating as a result of negative emotions occurs among individuals who already restrain their eating. While these individuals typically limit what they eat, when they are faced with negative emotions they cope by engaging in emotional eating. Restraint theory supports the idea that individuals with other eating disorders are more likely to engage in emotional eating. Together these three theories suggest that an individual’s aversion to negative emotions, particularly negative feelings that arise in response to a threat to the ego or intense self-awareness, increase the propensity for the individual to utilize emotional eating as a means of coping with this aversion.

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Behavioral And Physical Signs Of Emotional And Binge Eating

  • Eating large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Eating more quickly than normal
  • Unable to stop eating when you want to
  • Eating when youre not hungry or already full, sometimes to the point of being physically uncomfortable
  • Hiding food for the purposes of secretly eating it later
  • Eating smaller portions when in the presence of others, and then overeating or bingeing when alone
  • Eating in places where you may be distracted
  • Planning your day around food and eating
  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight as a result of overeat-undereat cycle

Is It Emotional Eating Or An Eating Disorder

The Physical and Emotional Effects of Eating Disorders

Many people use emotional eating to cope with boredom, stress or sadness. Food cravings often hit when a person is experiencing negative emotions. They may use food to provide comfort against stress and negative emotional states. Emotional eating may be a sign of an eating disorder. In spite of this, it does not always mean that a person has an eating disorder if they engage in emotional eating. Binge eating disorder treatment;can help a person with an eating disorder gain control over emotional eating. There are a variety of treatment options available at;binge eating treatment centers to help a person achieve emotional and nutritional balance.;

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How To Avoid Bingeing When Stressed

Talk to your doctor if you think you have a problem with overeating. Treatments for binge eating disorder can help you find out what’s driving you to overdo it with food. You’ll also learn how to change your habits.

It can help to keep a food diary. Write down when you binge eat and how you feel while you eat. Once you know what triggers you to binge, you can try these healthier ways to handle stress:

  • Exercise. Go for a good walk outside or take an aerobics class. Remember that stress hormone called cortisol? Exercise causes cortisol levels to drop so you don’t feel the giant urge to eat. Staying active also keeps your mind off the fridge and pantry. Plus, you’ll start to feel better about your body.
  • Meditate. Focus on your breath for a little while. It can ease anxiety and stress. Yoga is a great way to meditate and exercise at the same time. Doing this on a regular basis might help you make more thoughtful choices when it comes to food.
  • Eat healthy “comfort foods.” When you feel an urge to eat, turn to foods that can make you feel good without adding fat and calories. For example, choose a baked sweet potato, whole grain pasta with tomato sauce, or beans and brown rice.
  • Get support. When you feel like reaching for the cookie jar, call a friend or relative instead. They can help you when times get tough.

Remember, you don’t have to deal with binge eating disorder and stress alone. Find support from specialists like these:

What Causes Eating Disorders

We do not know exactly what causes eating disorders.

You may be more likely to get an eating disorder if:

  • you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug misuse
  • you’ve been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
  • you’re really worried about being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job, for example, ballet dancers, models or athletes
  • you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
  • you’ve been sexually abused

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Stress Eating As Disordered Behavior

Though not the same as traditional eating disorders, there has been interesting studies of stress eating and how it can develop in childhood as the result of trauma. For example, a study at the University College London of identical twins found that disordered eating patterns can begin as early as two years old not because of genetics but due to environmental factors. Even in cases where the parents were obese, emotional eating was driven by environment, not genes.

In the study, when confronting stress, some children went for a favorite snack, while others lost their appetite. The parents of the children recognized these behaviors as responses to being upset or anxious. The researchers noted that emotional undereating or overeating in childhood could set the stage for possible disordered eating later in life, when stress naturally increases. A similar study at Huntington University found that the higher the stress level, the more students were likely to eat.

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