Do you cope with stress by indulging in emotional eating? If you find yourself worrying about an upcoming deadline, a project to complete or anticipating a stressful situation, you may find yourself grabbing for some snacks—just to distract your mind. But are you really hungry? If you are overeating as a way to distract yourself from your stressors, chances are you’re not really hungry. This eating pattern can be a substitute for solving your stressors, and you may be using the comfort of food as a way to relax.
The link between stress and hunger is complicated and changing your relationship with food is not easy. If your hectic lifestyle causes you to go through your days on “autopilot” because you have many tasks to complete in a short amount of time, you may find that you are also eating on “autopilot.” Without thinking, you may be emotional eating--consuming large amounts of empty and unhealthy foods without noticing whether you are actually hungry—or even remembering what you ate!
We need to be careful when discussing overeating because our society tends to obsess with body image and physical appearances. The prevalence of eating disorders, especially among young girls and women indicates how the relationship to eating can become harmful. With anorexia, people starve themselves and still think that their emaciated bodies are still overweight. With bulimia, the individual may binge on a food that they cannot resist eating and then make themselves vomit so that they won’t gain weight.
In each case of emotional eating, the individual feels in control of the situation. These eating disorders may be in part an undesired consequence of the preoccupation our society has toward one’s outward physical appearance rather than paying attention to what our body is telling us from the inside.
Coping with stress by emotional eating may produce undesirable and unhealthy consequences. The following pages offer a variety of coping strategies that can provide positive results in dealing with your range of stressful situations.