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By Mahasin

Understanding and identifying emotional eating

Emotional eating is a habit that many people have developed and may not realize that they are doing. Using food as a reward, to celebrate or as a pick-me-up is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you turn to food as a coping mechanism, it can quickly turn into an unhealthy cycle. Mindlessly eating when stressed, sad, lonely and perhaps not even hungry can take a toll on your health.

Emotional eating has aspects in common with compulsive eating and binge eating disorder. Let’s use alcoholism as an analogy. Alcoholics aren’t capable of handling strong emotions, either positive or negative. Without alcohol to boost their mood or to drown their sorrows, alcoholics feel they can’t deal with simple day-to-day tasks. It’s the same with emotional eaters, with food. An emotional eater will turn to food whenever a bad day occurs, after an argument with a friend or spouse or just because they are bored.

Compulsive overeating can lead to physical ailments, including:
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Menstruation issues
Digestive problems
Back problems
Joint pain

There are a variety of ways that a person can seek help for emotional eating. Residential treatment, outpatient therapy and partial hospitalization are a few of them. A key component for treating emotional eating is psychotherapy. Only when an emotional eater addresses their issues and identifies the situations that drive them to this type of behavior of self-harming can they regain control and manage their eating habits better.

Another approach that emotional eaters can take to curb their cravings is quite simple. Engage in a hobby that will keep your mind off eating. Take up knitting, drawing, going for a walk or conducting any other activity to distract yourself from turning to food for solace. Find a way to feed your emotions with alternative actions.

If you are feeling lonely or sad, telephone a friend or join a support group. If a feeling of anxiety comes over you, try to squeeze a stress ball or dance around the room to your favorite music. If boredom begins to set in, read a book or magazine.

Support yourself by developing a healthy lifestyle. Choosing food wisely will help boost your energy level and make you more inclined to engage in physical activities instead of just sitting around, which can bring on the urge to eat your emotions away. If you’re interested in starting a serious workout regimen in order to keep your mind off food when you feel the urge to eat, consult your family doctor or a doctor who specializes in patients with emotional eating disorders.

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