Weight Loss and Emotional Eating
Do our emotions change our eating habits? Recent scientific studies suggest that the answer may be yes. We know that body chemistry affects our emotion, and women say that hormone changes when they are pregnant or throughout their menstrual cycle cause craving and affect eating patterns.
An Australian study cited by Prevention.com suggested that there are foods that, when eaten, have the beneficial effect of raising serotonin levels, so people may eat them as self-medication when experiencing stress or lots of emotion. This was demonstrated in another part of the study, which showed that women watching a sad movie ate 20 percent more chocolate than women watching a travelogue.
Nowadays, the pace of living is fast, and people move often and live in spread-out, anonymous neighborhoods. Close family networks and neighborhood socializing, which may have helped prevent stress in the past, as well as provide entertainment, have largely disappeared. Now, food serves as a comfort to many people, especially those large numbers of us who live sedentary lives between sitting in front of the computer at work and sitting in front of the television at home.
One answer to battling emotional eating and a sedentary lifestyle is to get up and move around wherever and whenever possible. At the office, get outside and walk once around the block for fresh air and to get your heart pumping a little. Do the same at home if you begin to feel like eating but you aren’t hungry. Get some exercise, or divert yourself to a fun and engaging activity that keeps your hands busy. Chew sugar-free gum to keep your mouth busy and to satisfy that craving.
People who do too much emotional eating may do it in an attempt to soothe feelings of anger or hurt, or as a stress management tool. It isn’t bad to try to manage one’s emotions, but if eating is the only way to do so, it could cause health problems. You may, instead, want to try to identify the source of these feeling, whether by exploring them in a journal or by visiting a therapist.
Some cravings may be due to an imbalanced diet. The body knows when it isn’t getting the right vitamins and minerals and will send out signals to this effect. Unfortunately, these signals can cause us to overcompensate, and eat too much of the wrong thing. Avoid this by eating plenty of fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugar and white flour, which are found in many snack foods.
Combine a nutritious approach with exercise and figure out why you eat when you aren’t hungry, and you may have an easier time avoiding emotional eating patterns. Finally, make time every day for a walk outdoors whatever the weather. Once you make this a habit, you’ll see it clears your head and makes you feel a little better.