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Yi Song, L.Ac

What Is the Cause of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating, overeating, binging, purging, comfort food… There are many ways to describe the action of turning to food when dealing with different emotions. However we choose to call it, the negative effect it has on our bodies is the same. Not only is it a very addictive habit, it is also one that harms our body quickly and over time.

Once we start indulging on certain foods as a form of emotional eating, it is almost impossible to stop. The reason why it’s so hard to stop is because it makes us feel like it is solving the problem; it takes some weight off our shoulders and it distracts us from the issue. However, it is obvious that emotional eating is in fact, not a solution to any of our problems. To start off, emotional eating affects our mental health by becoming a form of addiction; every time someone is stressed out they will resort to eat comfort foods because it makes them feel better. Moreover, it affects our physical health because comfort foods tend to be very high in sugar, sodium or trans fat.

Like any other form of addiction, it’s very difficult to stop emotional eating which is why in order to help people stop, it’s important to offer them a healthier route. There’s a wide variety of things that can be done to get someone to stop emotional eating. Firstly, it is important to find out the reason as to why one finds the need to emotionally eat and what emotion triggers that behavior. An advice that is often given to people is to carry a small notebook with them and when they feel the need to emotionally eat, to write down what triggered that feeling, how were they feeling at that exact moment? Also, it is advised to write down what type of food they ate. That way, when they go over their journal, they’ll be able to tell not only what feeling makes them resort to emotional eating but also what kind of food they crave. This will allow them to better understand what the imbalance in their body is.

Another way of fighting against binge eating is by exercising on as daily basis which allows us to reconnect with our physical self. If someone is very active, they will start putting more attention to their body and will find less appeal in eating the unhealthy foods that they usually binge on when emotionally drained. Exercise also reduces depression and anxiety which are known as emotional eating triggers.

Someone who constantly finds the need to emotionally eat can be described in this analogy as a clogged sink. A clogged sink has become clogged for different reasons, but all the causes piled up and lead to its defect. When we want to unclog a sink, we have to get rid off all the waste and dirt that is inside of it. Similarly, when we want to be as healthy as possible, we have to rid ourselves of all the negative habits we usually take part in and emotional eating is one of those habits. That is why in order to fully stop emotionally eating we have to get to the root of the problem. In the case of the clogged sink, the problem is mostly due to stress and a poor digestive system. A lack in energy circulation due to long-term stress weakens the digestive system over time. In order to relax and allow better energy circulation within ones’ body, it is advised to do yoga, meditation or exercise which will improve the circulation in the body. In the process of addressing emotional eating, it is hard to completely stop emotionally eating overnight but it is a slow process that requires time and effort. Instead of completely cutting off emotional eating, we advise to start eating healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables which will still starve our cravings.

Another great way to fight against emotional eating is acupuncture. Chinese medicine is a great way to achieve physical and emotional health. Chinese medicine believes that all aspects of ourselves are affected by our physical and emotional health which is why they believe that we should work hard to achieve optimum well being. When we eat because of emotional reasons rather than hunger, it’s because there’s a disconnection between our mind and body. Chinese medicine is also against destructive behaviors such as emotional eating but instead of condemning it, it tries to get to get to the root of the problem. In the case of emotional eating, we believe that if someone is constantly emotionally eating, it indicates that something is out of balance. Because we are all different and share different body types, what is out of balance can differ from one person to the next. Some common reasons are excessive appetite where one doesn’t feel full and finds the need to splurge on unhealthy foods to help their cravings. Another common reason is blood sugar imbalance. Other causes such as overwhelming anxiety, worry, depression and stress are very common. It’s very important to find out what specifically applies to each person’s case as getting to the root of the problem makes it much easier to find a solution.