Self-Assessment Test: Do You Eat For Hunger Or To Stuff Emotions?
People eat for many reasons. For some, eating is a time of social interaction or fun. Others eat strictly because the body is sending signals from the stomach by way of hormones telling them they are hungry, in other words they eat to live.
Unfortunately, there are still others for which eating is an emotional crutch. They eat because stress and strong emotions have invaded their mind and food becomes a way to block the unpleasantness of the feelings. Some of the most common feelings that people eat behind are loneliness, stress, sadness, heartache, and boredom.
When we eat emotionally in order to stuff feelings, we end up eating too much or eating the wrong foods. Our overall health suffers because of this kind of eating. It can lead to weight gain, and obesity, which leads to complications such as, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature death. Emotional eating also places burden over burden so to say because eating in this manner often results in feelings of guilt, shame and has a negative impact on self-image and self-esteem. A vicious cycle often consumes those who fall into the dysfunctional habit of using food as a coping skill.
How can you know if you are eating for emotional reasons?
To assess if you eat stuff emotions, you must ask yourself a few questions and of course, be sure that you are as honest as you can be. For every yes answer you give to yourself, it is more likely that you are an emotional eater.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Do I eat when I have a full stomach?
• Do I eat when I am under more stress?
• Has food become a part of my reward system?
• Do I eat in order to calm myself during episodes of anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, or boredom?
• Do I feel powerless when it comes to eating?
• Do I eat to the point of being overstuffed?
• Do I often feel guilty after I eat?
• Do I often feel regret after eating?
• Does food feel like a friend to you—someone with whom you feel safe?
If many of the above questions apply to you, you may be using food as a way to control unpleasant emotional states.
Feelings of hunger can be confusing when you eat emotionally and the hunger you feel when you are an emotional eater is qualitatively different than the hunger you feel when you are physiologically hungry.
Sudden and uncontrollable cravings
For example, when you become hungry because you really need to eat, the hunger pangs come on gradually. In emotional eating, the hunger comes on quite quickly and you feel a need to eat right away, much like a cigarette smoker craves a hit, or an alcoholic craves a drink. If you feel you cannot wait in order to be satisfied, you may be an emotional eater.
Emotional eating isn’t satisfied by just any type of food
When you eat to stuff emotions, only certain comfort foods are craved. Emotional eating tends to offer up uncontrollable cravings for sweet food, salty food or food that is high in fat. These kinds of foods make you feel a rush of endorphins—brain chemicals released when you are extremely happy or when you have taken certain pleasure-enhancing drugs.
Emotional eating is mindless
You sit down in front of a television set and, before you know it, you have consumed an entire container of ice cream or a bag of chips, barely remembering the actual eating. Healthy eating is eaten mindfully, with attention paid to what you are eating. The eating is a powerful experience you remember and look forward to again.
Even when your stomach is full, you tend to want to eat more
This is because you have mentally and emotionally blocked out the influence of the hormone “leptin,” released by fat cells that tell you to stop eating. If you eat just for physiological reasons, you pay attention to leptin and stop eating when your stomach is full. You don’t feel the familiar growling in your stomach or stomach pangs when you are eating for emotional reasons. The source of the hunger doesn’t come from your stomach, which releases the hormone “ghrelin” to tell you that you are hunger. The hunger comes instead from your mind and you are consumed by thoughts of eating.
Guilt And Shame
Finally, after you have eaten out of emotional needs, you tend to feel guilty, shameful, or regretful about what you have done. On some deeper level, you know that your body didn’t really need to eat the food you have just eaten and you feel bad about yourself. This is a powerful indicator of dysfunctional eating because food consumption is necessary to sustain life, so feelings of guilt are in no way appropriate unless that consumption is problematic.