Recognizing the Signs of Emotional Eating

Guest blogger Vicki L. VanArsdale is a freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. She’s a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and a nutrition & wellness consultant through American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA). You can read more about health and fitness on Vicki’s blog.

We’ve all been there. We want to lose weight. We eat right and exercise. We follow our healthy eating plan. Then one day something causes us to go off track. Instead of having one cookie we eat the whole bag. Some kind of emotion triggered this response but instead of facing it we binge and then feel guilty. We are emotional eaters.

I once weighed 250 lbs. Another time I weighed 235 lbs. Without a doubt my extensive weight gains were tied to my emotions. I was an emotional binge eater and food was my friend. Food didn’t judge me. Food didn’t belittle me. Food made me feel good and provided comfort. It helped me forget my troubles for a while.

Here are four signs of emotional eating:

  1. A craving for specific tastes and textures.
  2. Hunger that is brought on by an emotional event.
  3. The urgent demand for a specific food.
  4. Binge eating followed by feelings of guilt.

In my twenties, I had to go to a gastroenterologist and was on medications to treat my symptoms. I even had a colonoscopy. Luckily I was only diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Once I addressed my emotional issues I was able to gain control of my eating and lose 100 lbs. I’m now a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant, and I’ve completed three marathons.

If you get a sudden urge for a specific food and you make a special effort to get it, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you have an emotional need for it. Emotional hunger will also cause you to eat when you’re not really hungry and to overeat even when you’re full.

Take a step back and assess the situation. How are you feeling at this moment? Take a walk or call a friend before eating that bag of chips or box of cookies. Your waistline will thank you.

A healthy lifestyle is possible when you recognize your emotional eating triggers and learn how to overcome them.

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