Despite our best intentions, we still make bad choices when it comes to food. One of the primary reasons is emotional eating. When Socrates said “Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat,” more than 2500 years ago, he probably did not anticipate the epidemic of “living to eat,” in which we find ourselves today — and why two-thirds of us are overweight, and millions of us are suffering from diet-related diseases. Research from the Center for Disease Control (2003-2004) reported that more than 132 million American adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese and more than 12.5 million children and teens between the ages of 2-19 are either overweight or obese. In fact, obesity is a global epidemic amongst adults, children and teens. In our world of relative comfort and plenty, we’ve completely lost touch with our bodies’ needs, and have instead become all too attuned to our wants. Let’s get one thing straight: we eat so that the highly complex machinery of our bodies can continue to function and support us as we go about our day-to-day lives. But, too often we turn to food for other reasons: to relieve loneliness or boredom or to alleviate stress or depression – (And it’s not uncommon for us to use the excuse of a happy occasion to celebrate with food and drink that’s not good for us.) Once you start using food as a crutch, you initiate a cycle of emotional eating that often leads to poor health, weight gain, and depression.
Emotional eating is a danger to all of us—we’re all human, and sometimes ice cream really does make us feel better! But if you start to recognize a pattern in your behavior, like always overeating after a stressful day at work or bingeing whenever you have relationship problems, you need to find a way to address the underlying problems in a way that is not harmful to you. Often emotional eating disguises serious issues and it’s worth considering counseling or therapy if it will help you find peace somewhere other than in the fridge. Not only do you have the ability to stop the cycle, in fact, you’re the only one who can.
If you are an “emotional eater” ask yourself these questions every time you eat:
- Why am I eating?
You should eat because you are hungry, not because you are sad, bored, or even happy, and certainly not because everyone around you is eating.
- What am I eating?
The food you eat should be wholesome, rich in nutrients, not junk or comfort food.
- How much am I eating?
Eat enough to satisfy you, not so much that you feel stuffed. Learn to listen to your body and know when you’ve had enough.