Emotional eating triggers fall into two categories depending on whether the emotional eating is from negative or from positive emotions. You're a comfort eater if you eat when you're feeling...
• mad, bad, guilty, or sad and so on! For example you become 'hangry' - in other words when you're angry you become hungry! We learn very early in life that eating isn't only about hunger but can help soothe our emotional needs too. Food, especially the ‘illegal’ foods that Mom and Dad don't always want us to eat can soothe and comfort emotional needs such as hurt, fear, anger or boredom.
• happy, needing a reward or are feeling congratulatory and so on.Happy eating is associated with food: from birthday parties, to holiday eating like Christmas and Thanksgiving, and used to congratulate children for anything from doing well in school to behaving well.
Comfort eaters with uncomfortable negative emotional eating triggers are looking to soothe or tranquilize or stuff down feelings.
Turning to emotional eating when your life feels as if it's falling about around you may seem like it's a quick-fix to feel better. Of course we know it doesn't really do anything to solve our problems... but it's easy to forget that in the heat of an emotion.
Experts estimate that 75 percent of overeating is caused by emotions. “Emotional eaters have a pattern of eating to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and problems of daily life,” says South African dietician Megan Pentz-Kluyts.
If you're a comfort eater you're part of a very popular 'club' mostly frequented by women. Women are most often emotional eaters because they're so used to being the nurturers to the world that this often the easiest way to self-nurture.
Men I've worked with seem to turn to alcohol more readily than food.
Emotional eating triggers, especially in women also has a physiological aspect - a need to increase the endorphin serotonin. Serotonin is a ‘feel good’ brain chemical that produces a sense of calmness and serenity.
When our serotonin levels drop, our mood and energy quickly follow suit.
Research has found that when women are exhausted, stressed, premenstrual, menopausal or when they're deprived of sunshine, sex, sleep, food or joy, their serotonin level can drop as much as 40 percent lower than a mans.
In addition, when women are stressed, their serotonin levels get depleted much faster than men which can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, worried, anxious, sorrowful, distressed or resentful. All typical reasons to be a comfort eater.
Our body is an amazing self-regulating organism...when serotonin is low, it makes us crave foods that raise serotonin levels like those we typically turn to: carbohydrates (like pasta, breads, bakery good), chocolate etc...
Treating ourselves as if we’ve committed some heinous crime also does nothing to build our self-esteem but rather erodes our self-confidence and self-respect. And eating becomes a habit that prevents us from learning skills that can effectively resolve our emotional distress. The world encourages us to beat ourselves up as if we're just weak-willed failures but it only harms your health. Please don't do that. If there is ever a time to treat yourself with self-compassion and self love, it's now. Research has shown that self-compassion helps us eat less not more.
When you understand how quantum energy works you'll know that it's vastly healthier to treat yourself with gentle kindness and to treat yourself as an emotional eater just being presented with an opportunity to learn.
Happiness eating is also a part of being a comfort eater. Except that on these occasions you're eating for reward, to celebrate, as a joining experience or because we're feeling relieved or happy. Because food is so often used as a reward growing up, it becomes more than just fuel. It becomes cross-referenced with happiness and celebrating, comfort and soothing.
Emotional eating often reflects conditioning about using food in ways that has nothing to do with physical hunger.
Happy eating is usually habitual - and with awareness we can realize there are many different ways to reward and recognize ourselves. Like going on a celebratory hike, spending time with someone you love, buying yourself a new outfit etc...
Want to know how to deal better with those emotional eating triggers?
Want to live better longer? Sign up for our newsletter and receive our free ebook!