If you have a healthy relationship with food, then eating should simply be something that you do to satisfy physical hunger. However, some people use food to satisfy an emotional void; in other words, they use it to satisfy their emotional, rather than their physical, hunger.
For these people, dieting can be very difficult since food is typically how they deal with unpleasant emotions. If you are an emotional eater, it’s important to seek counseling as you pursue your diet and exercise goals since this will help you to get to the root of your problems and be more successful on your journey.
Many people, however, do not realize how deep their issues with food go. Take a careful inventory of yourself and see if you display any of the common indicators of being an emotional eater.
Sign #1: You Reach for Foods in Times of Stress
Think back to the last time you were under a lot of stress. Whether it was the pressure of an impending deadline at work or family or relationship stress, consider how you responded to it. If your gut instinct was to reach for food to soothe your worry and fears, then you may be an emotional eater. Just as alcoholics handle stress by drinking, emotional eaters try and manage their stress with food, which, in the end, only makes the problem worse by derailing their efforts to get healthier.
Sign #2: You Eat When You’re Not Hungry
A true emotional eater will not eat just because he or she is physically hungry. On the contrary, emotional eaters might reach for the candy bowl or the chips just because they’re feeling bored or lonely. If you find that you often eat, even when you’re not hungry, or worse yet, even when you’re stuffed to the brim, this is definitely a sign of being an emotional eater. You need to change your relationship with food so that you only eat as a response to physical hunger.
Sign #3: Constant, Specific Cravings
All dieters have cravings from time to time. If, however, you find that your cravings are very specific and constant, you are likely an emotional eater. Since emotional eaters use food for comfort, they will often crave foods that have brought them comfort in the past or that remind them of happier times. If you suddenly get a hankering for mom’s macaroni and cheese after a bad date, for example, then you’re probably an emotional eater.
Finally, as mentioned, emotional eaters have deep-rooted issues with food, and these issues often transcend into how they feel about themselves. If you’re cruel to yourself in that you say mean things about your body and pick yourself apart in front of the mirror, then this is a pretty good indicator your issues with food go deeper than just struggling to eat healthily. If you notice this or any of these signs in yourself, try speaking to a counselor for help and support.