6 Causes of Emotional Eating and How to Deal With Them Effectively

Are you suffering from stress? Everyone has moments of stress from time to time, such as when you’re stuck in traffic, or you have a hard day at the office. But, for some people, stress can also become a serious issue.

Expose yourself to too much chronic stress and you’re putting yourself at significant risk of a range of health challenges. In fact, experts say that stress is directly connected to many of the main causes of premature death.

The good news is that there are various ways you can begin to cut down on stress, from exercising to changing your routine.

However, before you get started, it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of stress.

Be aware of these red flags:

1. Tooth or jaw pain.

Yes, stress does affect your teeth, more than you might think. If you’ve noticed soreness in your jaw or pain in your gums, then it might be because you’re dealing with feelings of stress.

● Grinding your teeth is often something that you may not even realize you’ve been doing until you get to the dentist, and they berate you for signs of bruxism.

● If you do notice signs of discomfort in your jaw, check with your dentist to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to protect your teeth.

2. Your memory is getting worse.

As your schedule becomes more overwhelming, and you end up with more things to think about each day, it’s easy to brush off issues with forgetfulness. However, if your memory is really letting you down lately, it could be because of stress.

● When you’re putting your brain under too much pressure, you also expose the muscle to a lot of extra work. This means that you end up getting frazzled or burning out a lot faster.

● Paying attention to where you lose track of your train of thought could show you where you have too much on your plate. It might be time to slow down.

3. Your digestion isn’t right.

Digestive health and stress are closely connected. You might have noticed during stressful periods in the past that you tend to have challenges with heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. These are all common gastrointestinal symptoms of stress.

● Your stomach will often churn and feel uncomfortable when you’re stressed because feelings of anxiety cause the body to produce additional digestive acid.

● These feelings can also mean that you don’t empty food from your stomach as quickly as you should, which leads to cramping, gas, and bloating.

4. You’re always thirsty. If you’re constantly suffering from a major thirst, it’s worth speaking to a doctor. Excessive thirst can be a sign of things like diabetes. However, you could also be dehydrated because of excess stress.

● That’s because stress causes your body to pump out extra hormones from your adrenal glands. Those glands are also responsible for the hormones that regulate the fluid levels in your body, as well as electrolytes.

● If your adrenal glands are worn out, then the body might feel like it needs more hydration when it really doesn’t. Although upping your H2O intake shouldn’t cause any problems, it’s still a sign of a long-term problem that’s important to rectify.

5. Your muscles are sore.

Sore muscles often happen as a result of tension. If you’re under a ton of stress, your body responds by involuntarily tensing up. This can gradually lead to more body pain over time, because your muscles aren’t used to being under that much strain.

● When your body is in fight or flight mode, this produces excess cortisol too, causing more tensing.

● The same way you suffer from soreness from grinding your teeth, you could experience soreness elsewhere in your body because you’re placing more pressure on your muscles. A good massage or a hot bath might help in the shorter term, but eventually you’ll need to tackle stress.

6. Your sleep is messed up. If you’re having trouble with falling asleep at night, it could be because stress is making it harder for you to relax.

● It’s likely that you spend a lot of time thinking about the things that worry you when you’re in bed. After all, there’s nothing else to take your mind off those worries.

● You might also notice that you’re having more odd dreams because of your stress.

● On the other hand, some people experience a desire to sleep more often when they’re stressed.

● This could be an indication that you’re not just suffering from stress, but that you’re having issues with anxiety and depression too. Consider speaking to your doctor about these issues. They should be able to offer some personalized guidance.

As you can see, it’s critical to your health and wellbeing that you learn to relieve stress.

Find self-care and relaxation activities that work for you and partake in these activities regularly.

Make it a priority to take care of yourself by reducing your stress.

6 Causes of Emotional Eating and How to Deal With Them Effectively

The causes of emotional eating are quite varied. Food can certainly be pleasurable, but the longer-lasting effects of emotional eating are negative. Understanding the causes of emotional eating makes the solutions easier to identify.

It can be challenging to gain mastery over emotional eating, but the benefits of doing so last a lifetime, so it’s worth the struggle.

Identify the primary reasons for your emotional eating:

1. Food is used as a main source of pleasure.

Those that eat emotionally often lack other ways of making themselves feel good. We all crave positive feelings. In fact, there are only two basic motivations: feeling good and avoiding pain. Essentially everything you do is motivated by these two things.

◦ If the primary way you make yourself feel good is via food, you’re going to struggle to control your eating. What else can you do that will make you feel good? Try some different things and see what works.

◦ A few ideas include exercise, volunteering, having a meaningful conversation, increasing your social circle, playing an instrument, reading, or accomplishing your goals.

2. A lack of other options for dealing with discomfort.

When we feel bad, we look for ways to feel better. Those that eat emotionally don’t see the other options they have available for dealing with uncomfortable feelings. What could you do instead of eating when you feel bad?

◦ Meditation, exercise, writing in a journal, calling a friend, listening to music, dancing, playing with your child or dog, or just taking a walk in nature are a few good ideas.

3. A low threshold for discomfort.

A greater ability to sit with your discomfort will reduce the need to eat emotionally. Just like some people are more capable of dealing with pain, some are more capable of handling emotional discomfort without responding negatively.

◦ Most of us avoid uncomfortable situations as much as we can, but you can’t get skilled at dealing with it if you avoid it.

◦ Put yourself in uncomfortable situations and practice relaxing in the face of discomfort. Relaxing your body and breathing deeply sounds simple, but it’s effective. Practice.

4. A lack of self-esteem.

Those that eat emotionally generally aren’t happy with themselves. In a sense, this is another form of emotional discomfort that emotional eaters try to soothe with food.

◦ There are many resources available for dealing with low self-esteem, but here are a few quick ideas to get started:

◦ Put a stop to your inner critic. As soon as you begin talking negatively to yourself, change your thoughts.

◦ Spend one minute, or five, out of every hour appreciating yourself. Make a short list of things that you like about yourself. Repeat throughout the day.

5. Stress.

Stress itself is an issue. Stress literally changes the types of foods you crave. Studies show that foods high in fat and/or sugar decrease the body’s response to stress. Comfort foods really do earn that name.

◦ Are there ways you can reduce the stress in your life? How?

6. A lack of awareness during eating.

It’s much easier to overeat when your attention is elsewhere. Whether your attention is on friends, the TV, or your thoughts, a lack of awareness can lead to overeating.

◦ When you’re eating, do nothing else but eat. Keep your focus on your meal.

A multi-pronged approach tends to work best when dealing with the challenges of emotional eating. Consider getting the help of your doctor or a mental health professional if you’re unable to make progress on your own.

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Cheers, Helene Malmsio

Related Reading: How To Manage Stress guide

And please check out my books below to learn quick and effective ways to increase your health and wellbeing

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