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Emotional Eating: Feeding Your Feelings

Eating to feed a feeling, and not a growling stomach, is emotional eating.
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Comfort Foods continued...

 

Ice cream is first on the comfort food list. After ice cream, comfort foods break down by sex: For women it's chocolate and cookies; for men it's pizza, steak, and casserole, explains Wansink.

 

And what you reach for when eating to satisfy an emotion depends on the emotion. According to an article by Wansink, published in the July 2000 American Demographics, "The types of comfort foods a person is drawn toward varies depending on their mood. People in happy moods tended to prefer ... foods such as pizza or steak (32%). Sad people reached for ice cream and cookies 39% of the time, and 36% of bored people opened up a bag of potato chips."

Overfeeding Emotions

"We all eat for emotional reasons sometimes," says Jakubczak, who has talked to college students at the University of Maryland about emotional eating.

 

When eating becomes the only or main strategy a person uses to manage emotions, explains Jakubczak, then problems arise -- especially if the foods a person is choosing to eat to satisfy emotions aren't exactly healthy.

 

"If you eat when you are not hungry, chances are your body does not need the calories," says Jakubczak. "If this happens too often, the extra calories get stored as fat, and too much fat storage can cause one to be overweight, which may present some health risks."

 

According to an interview with Jakubczak on the University of Maryland web site, 75% of overeating is caused by emotions, so dealing with emotions appropriately is important.

Recognizing Emotional Eating

"The first thing one needs to do to overcome emotional eating is to recognize it," says Jakubczak. "Keeping a food record and ranking your hunger from 1-10 each time you put something in your mouth will bring to light 'if' and 'when' you are eating for reasons other than hunger."

 

Next, you need to learn techniques that help manage emotions besides eating, explains Jakubczak.

 

"Oftentimes when a child is sad, we cheer them up with a sweet treat," says Jakubczak. "This behavior gets reinforced year after year until we are practicing the same behavior as adults. We never learned how to deal with the sad feeling because we always pushed it away with a sweet treat. Learning how to deal with feelings without food is a new skill many of us need to learn."

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