Emotional Eating: Feeding Your Feelings
Eating to feed a feeling, and not a growling stomach, is emotional eating.
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."
"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
"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
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."