Emotionally eating is complicated.
Everyone experiences emotional eating because it is a safe coping mechanism.
When it begins to impact your overall wellbeing, it can pose challenges because eating doesn’t address the root cause of your emotions. Your body naturally craves food for survival, and the act of eating can activate your brain’s reward system, providing a sense of well-being. Eating releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Food cannot permanently resolve feelings of stress, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, sadness, or fatigue. For some, turning to food can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, adding another layer of complexity.
Food is a part of celebrations, a gesture of care during tough times, and a means of social connection.
Food can sometimes play a role in dealing with intense emotions, however, it’s important to recognize if and when a more effective coping mechanisms is more appropriate.
Emotional eating can be triggered by a variety of external factors such as:
Emotionally eating can stem from various reason. The food insecurity and/or food accessibility can also contribute to emotional eating.
Emotional eating, on its own, is not classified as an eating disorder, although it can be an early sign of disordered eating patterns that may escalate to an eating disorder.
We all have different coping mechanisms, and it’s okay if eating is one of yours. Eating shouldn’t be the ONLY one. Adding more coping skills to your toolkit such as, movement, writing, listening to music, calling a friend, meditation, or engaging in activities that bring joy, can be helpful in managing emotional eating. If emotional eating becomes a concern for you, seeking support can be beneficial.
Lastly, building meals using my Joy Full Plate Method, which includes a variety of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber can help you to build a healthier relationship with food.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosures.
I'm Krystal Dunham, and I'm so happy you're here! I'm always on the hunt for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe! So that would make me not your "typical" dietitian. Here you'll find non-diet-y recipes and intuitive eating resources so that you can reclaim your joy around food and nutrition, you in? Learn more about me.