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14664053 - pretty european woman over white biting her lipAre you eating to satisfy your emotional needs or physical needs? Emotional eating is not uncommon. Many of us reward ourselves with our favorite foods when we want to celebrate or we stuff our faces with salty, sweet, and other comfort foods when we need a pick-me-up.

This may not be such a bad thing once in a while, but it can be dangerous when it becomes habitual. When we turn to food to comfort our strong emotions (feeling depressed, angry, stressed, or anxious, etc.) it can lead us to weight gain and make it even harder to stick to a diet.

There are a number of things that can trigger you to be an emotional eater, it may be something you picked up as a child, something you’ve adapted over time hanging out with friends who are also emotional eaters, or maybe it’s simply stressed induced.

Stress can trigger your body to want to eat more, as your body prepares to fight or flee a situation. Cortisol (a stress hormone) will also want to preserve fats in case you need them, which means added weight gain. So, stress not only makes you feel hungry, but it can also hold onto the fat, which can be very counterproductive if you’re trying to lose weight.

You can get a handle on emotional eating by first recognizing there’s a problem. Start to notice if it’s a physical hunger or an emotional hunger that’s causing your craving. You can keep a diary of your daily eating. Write down the food you consume, but also how you felt at the time of consumption. Also, note the times of each of these occurrences. It can help you identify if you’re eating to fulfill emotional needs or physical ones. Often emotional eating can feel like it’s a physical need but it’s really not.

Make a point to eat healthier foods, since stress can cause you to crave foods that are unhealthy. Work to satisfy your needs with vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, whole grains, and fermented foods. Be mindful about how much you’re eating in one sitting, too. You may be eating spoonful after spoonful, and then realize you’ve just eaten a whole container of ice cream. Don’t let your emotional cravings lead you to mindless eating habits.

Find other ways to deal with these emotions rather than turning to food. Talk with someone about how you feel, take a relaxing bath, read a book, watch a funny show, or enjoy your favorite hobby. Writing down how you feel may also help you work out issues, so you don’t feel the need to overeat.

Emotional eating is not uncommon, but it is unhealthy. Examine whether you’re eating to satisfy physical or emotional needs. If you feel it’s emotional, identify ways you can move forward and get a better handle on your health.