Emotional eating shares several traits with binge eating disorder and compulsive eating — especially the tendency to eat unhealthily large amounts of food at one time. For emotional eaters, though, the problem isn’t only the binge eating itself, but also the reasons behind the binges. Emotional eating also shares certain characteristics with alcoholism. Alcoholics are often incapable of dealing with strong emotions — both positive and negative — without alcohol to either drown their sorrows or boost their celebratory mood. For emotional eaters, the behavior is similar — just with food instead of alcohol as the substance of choice/compulsion.
Washington: Emotional eating is something we're all familiar with. Happy or sad, up or down, there's a plethora of media in the world that tells us our moods often dictate the foods we choose to eat.
A study by University of Delaware associate professor Meryl Gardner finds that there's more to stress eating than simply emotion and in fact, thinking about the future may help people make better food choices.
Gardner tried to find out why when someone is in a bad mood will they choose to eat junk food and why when someone is in a good mood will they make healthier food choices?
“In an evolutionary sense, it makes sense that when we feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, we know something is wrong and focus on what is close to us physically and what is close in time, in the here and now,” said Gardner.
The findings …
Treating emotional eating can can occur via a variety of means in many settings (including, for example, outpatient therapy, residential treatment, and partial hospitalization. Psychotherapy is a key component of treatment for emotional eating. When the emotional eater identifies and addresses issues that have prompted them to engage in this self-harming behavior, they are able to regain control over their behaviors. Nutritional counseling from experts is often also involved, in order to ensure that any needed weight loss is achieved in a healthy way.