While everyone is prone to reaching for a snack after a long day, or in celebration of an event, are you really aware of what is considered normal when it comes to your eating habits? If you find yourself reaching for food for comfort, or to relieve some sort of emotional stress or pain, it might be time to consider that your mental health and your diet could be fused together to create what is called ‘an emotional eater’.
Eating is a habit, it is one that we need to survive, but it is also one that we participate in as part of being a social member of society. Eating is involved with many social activities, ones that trigger positive and negative responses, so it isn’t hard to see where this type of behavior can quickly get out of hand. So what happens when a person begins to habitually turn to snacking or food in general when they need comfort, or as a way to buffer off certain emotions? That is when the trouble begins. Good mental health means finding healthy and positive ways to deal with pain, stress and depression, and food is considered to be a negative response to these feelings.
What’s even more shocking is that over 80% of people will admit to this type of behavior, which is a number that needs to be got under control when you weigh it next to the amount of obese and morbidly obese people in society.
Food and Mental Health are Strongly Connected
It may be cliché, and you may have heard it before and not paid much attention, but food, to some, can be considered an addiction. Below are a few steps that experts agree will help you gain some perspective and awareness over why you are reaching for that bag of chips, or ice cream cone, when you are feeling stressed or depressed.
One way to control your eating would be to ask yourself to be honest: Why are you eating? Asking yourself this simple question could help you make the decision on the feeling you are experiencing that may be causing the ‘hunger’. Are you upset, sad, or depressed, or eating because your body needs the nutrients?
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Another good way to keep tabs on your eating habits, is to track your consumption: Starting a food journal, even if it is for a brief period of time is a good way to notice patterns in your eating habits vs. your mental health state. If you notice that you tend to overeat on certain days or times of the week, like perhaps before that stressful Monday morning meeting at work, than it might be a good time to consider keeping your emotional eating in check.
Experts and researchers say that while emotional eating might be very common, it is very important to realize why it is happening, as a way to curb the behavior. Eating during certain times may give you an inside scoop into what you are feeling beneath the surface. If your journal tells you, for example, that you eat primarily when you are feeling stressed or depressed, finding alternative ways to address this specific avenue of overeating.