Emotional Eating FAQs

Emotional Eating FAQ

What is Emotional Eating?

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the refrigerator looking for something to eat when you weren’t hungry? Are there times when you’ve had a snack, even though you knew you weren’t hungry and you struggled not to eat because you knew that you’d feel guilty afterward?  What made you eat even though you knew you shouldn’t?  Most likely it was emotional eating – eating in response to unpleasant emotional arousal, or occasionally, eating to make a pleasant emotional state even better.

Is Emotional Eating the Cause of Weight Gain?

For many people, emotional eating is a major cause of their weight gain, but it is not the only reason people put on the pounds.  A sedentary lifestyle, eating in response to cues like the sight of other people eating and “portion distortion” are a few of the other reasons for gaining weight. Research shows that emotional eating is a common reason for regaining weight following bariatric surgery and is the primary reason why dieters who had lost weight, give-up, go off their diet and regain the weight. Unless emotional eating is under control it’s almost impossible to permanently lose weight.

I Don’t Binge, Am I an Emotional Eater?

An eating binge is defined as consuming a large quantity of food in a short period of time with a feeling that the eating is out of control.  Binge eating is the most serious type of emotional eating and is the main characteristic of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, two serious eating disorders, but there are other, less serious and more common types of emotional eating.  Many people eat, when they aren’t hungry in response to emotions but they may not lose control and binge.  Some people only eat a little bit each time, but they do it often.  Unnecessary snacking or grazing, as well as binging can be triggered by emotions.

The Effects of Emotional Eating

The most obvious effect of emotional eating is weight gain, but there are other hidden consequences of emotional eating.  Typically emotional eating undermines psychological well-being.  The dieter who has an unnecessary snack usually feels guilty and discouraged afterwards.  In addition to guilt, binge eaters are likely become depressed, and may withdraw from others, and become secretive because of the shame they feel about their eating.

Overcoming Emotional Eating

The first step in overcoming emotional eating is to become aware of your unique pattern.  Some people are anxious eaters, others lose their appetite when they are anxious but eat more when they are depressed.  To find out more about your emotional eating click here and complete the emotional eating questionnaire. For detailed information on overcoming the different types of emotional eating consult Dr. Abramson’s book, Emotional Eating: What You Need to Know Before Starting Another Diet. Click here to order from Amazon.com.

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Psychologist, speaker and author