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Home / Healthy Eating

Emotional eating: How to recognize and stop it

Healthy Eating
By Esther Muchene | 6 months ago | 3 min read

 Junk foods may be sweet but not the best for your health (Image: Shutterstock)

What exactly is emotional eating? And is it really bad for you?

Well, emotional eating is an unhealthy relationship with food as a coping mechanism for stress. You might assume you’ve just been eating more lately because you simply enjoy good food and delicious snacks while in fact you’ve been stress eating.

The risky thing about emotional eating is, it’s a very sneaky habit because this response to stress isn’t looked the same way as other vices are like taking drugs and secondly, we rarely track our eating habits which could easily cause this trend to go unnoticed.

The fact is that the long-term effects of emotional eating aren’t to be played with at all. This is how you can spot and stop it:

  • Look out for the signs

There are usually clear differences between physical and emotional hunger. When you have a healthy connection to food, you eat when you’re hungry and you are more likely to make deliberate decisions on what you’re choosing to eat and you don’t have any insatiable cravings.

Stress eating is the total opposite and one major sign that distinguishes the two is whether your urge to eat is backed up by a negative emotion or experience.

You will also feel that emotional pressure to eat something that will make you feel good rather than something that is actually good for you.

Being aware of the difference between the two is the first step to healing.

 Find alternative channels of releasing your pressures and stresses (Image: Shutterstock)
  • Tackle the underlying issues

This type of eating is only a symptom of a bigger problem. It could be that you’ve been dealing with family issues, work-related stress, confidence struggles or maybe you just haven’t identified healthy outlets for handling the daily pressures of life.

Until you start investigating what the real problem is, you’ll still be at risk of leaning on food as an unhealthy source of comfort.

You could book counselling sessions or open up to someone you can trust to help you address the deep-rooted issues you have been avoiding.

  • Find other healthy outlets

Life isn’t always a bed of roses. Everyone has to deal with stress at one point and you have the freedom to decide how you’ll cope.

But in this case turning to food won’t really help you feel better especially in the long-term perspective. Food won’t automatically cause your problems to disappear and you might develop health complications since emotional eating is connected to unhealthy food choices.

Find an outlet that is actually good for you like trying dancing classes where you get to meet new people, stay in shape and have fun. There are so many helpful activities you can try out whenever you’re having a bad day. Find one that works for you.

  • Build a healthy support system

For emotional eaters, food is considered to be the only true friend. This is a passive friendship where you get to dump all your emotions on your food and it basically has no option but to obey your every command.

You can turn this around by surrounding yourself with people who actually want to see you recover instead of turning to food. You can even connect with others going through a similar situation and help each other end this toxic relationship.

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