We have all felt sudden food cravings we cannot explain, but also cannot ignore. This is especially common in women, when hormones dictate the mood and food cravings every month due to menstrual cycle. It is not dangerous if it happens occasionally, but emotional eating can eventually turn into a serious problem. It does not only lead to obesity, but also develops the feeling of self-consciousness, sadness and depression.

Why do people develop the habit of emotional eating?

Emotional hunger is a phenomenon when a person feels sudden and uncontrollable cravings for food. It is usually a specific type of food, like sweets. As we mentioned above, it is common in women during the premenstrual period. However, it can also occur in other situations, and hit both men and women equally.

Emotional eating usually develops in lonely and stressed people of all age and both genders. In the situations where the pressure and stress are high, people turn to food to reduce stress or reward themselves for the suffered stress. People who are lonely or feel emotionally empty also reach for food, because it serves as a comfort.

Needless to say, this practice leads to gaining weight. But, what is more dangerous is the vicious circle emotional eating creates. If you eat when you are insecure, stressed, unsatisfied and sad, you will gain weight. Gaining weight can make you feel more insecure and unsatisfied, which will lead to more emotional eating. This circle is not easy to break, but if you start practicing mindful eating, it is definitely possible to create new habits.

How to control yourself

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First of all, you need to be aware of the problem. Pay attention to your eating habits and ask yourself – do you eat when you are stressed, overly emotional, sad or tired. Think about the rewards you give yourself – do you treat yourself with food when you complete something successfully? Do you feel that you lack control and that the need for food overcomes you? If the answers to these questions are affirmative, you are an emotional eater.

After you identify the problem, it is time to identify the time when it occurs. In other words, you need to make a difference between emotional and physical hunger. When your body really needs food as fuel, you will eat more or less anything, while emotional hunger usually makes you crave for something specific. Emotional hunger hits you suddenly, but it does not happen in your stomach. Emotional hunger leads to eating mindlessly, after which you may feel guilty or ashamed. Try following the signals your body gives you when you feel hungry, and learn to identify when you need to fill your stomach, and when the food is only a means of coping with emotions.

It is important to identify what triggers your emotional hunger. Pay attention to your daily routine and behavior and write down when you feel the emotional hunger, trying to find its cause. This way you will be able to remove the triggers from your life, or at least find other ways to deal with them.

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Lastly, if you eat because of stress or emotions, you need to find other ways of coping with them. Give yourself some time to enjoy the activities you like, spend time with people you love and doing what you like. Also, develop an exercise routine, because physical activity is much better than food when it comes to  reducing stress.