Health Bites: How real is emotional eating, and what can you do about it?

Written by Kelsey Zeikel

Psychotherapist Esther Kane has been studying food, weight, and body image for 20 years and writes extensively about the reasons why individuals turn to food for reasons other than true hunger.

She believes we turn to food when we experience a number of different emotions—both positive (when we’re happy, celebrating, or having fun) and undesirable (tired, sad, depressed). These emotions all serve a purpose in how we feel and act but shouldn’t be attached to our eating habits. It is important to understand that food is a culturally important staple of most holidays and celebrations. The flipside is when we overindulge and overeat all too often. Habits like reaching for potato chips or cookies when you’re bored or feeling sad can be self-destructing.

The solution is to increase awareness by analyzing your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. We all need to be better at replacing mindless snacking with more productive activities.

According to Esther Kane, “When we fight with ourselves about digging into the cookie bag, the two parts of the mind at work are the emotional and the rational.”

The emotional mind compels us to act in a way without thinking prior and based on feelings in that instant.

The rational mind, however, is able to reason that eating cookies this second will not make any problem go away or create any positive future feelings. The goal at the end of the day, experts say, is to have these two parts working in conjunction so that we make choices that make us happy, healthy, at peace, and most importantly, in control. This all requires practice.

Major tendencies include the derailment of mindful eating, distracted eating, and eating without enjoyment. Great ways to overcome these poor habits are to only eat while seated and focus strictly on eating your meal without distraction from work or the TV. We feel more satisfied when meals contain an element of enjoyment and when we are eating the particular foods we like and are able to savor in terms of factors like taste and texture.

Some of us never take the time to figure out what we really like, even as college students. Part of the problem with American food habits is that we rush through meals and pay little attention to what we’re consuming. Taking an honest look at when, why, and what you’re eating on a daily basis. It can have significant beneficial effects on you’re the relationship between your mind and body.

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