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Lesson 5: Emotional Eating

It’s been another late night at the office, you stumble in through the front door just past 10 pm. The dog made an accident on the floor again and you just smeared it all over the carpet. “Just great,” you think to yourself as you scrub up the mess with your favorite kitchen towel. You toss it in the trash and decide to open the refrigerator. Nothing looks too good in there so you open up the freezer and, BINGO! You grab the gallon-size tub of chocolate ice cream and get real comfy on the couch. You shovel the ice cream in your mouth scoop after scoop until you lick the tub clean. You want to feel better, but you still need something more. You find yourself back in front of the fridge, and I think you know where this is going…

There are two types of hunger, the first type is physical hunger, which is when your body needs food for energy. The second type of hunger is emotional hunger, which is when your brain associates food with comfort. No matter how much you eat out of emotion, you will never be satisfied. Trigger eating in emotional situations leads to obsessive amounts of eating.

In weight loss, it’s extremely important to know the difference between physical and emotional hunger in order to control the amount of food you consume. The best course of action is to identify the feelings and situations that trigger your emotional hunger in order to learn how to suppress it, or how to choose a healthier alternative. Food diaries and logs should be accurate in what you are eating, where you are eating, and how you are feeling when you are eating. Tracking your food consumption and emotion can help figure out when you are actually hungry and when you are eating out of emotion.

After identifying your emotional eating triggers, you can eliminate emotional hunger by taking a course of action of control by confrontation or distraction. Confrontation is the offensive strategy, where when placed in an emotional situation, you say “no.” Distraction is the more defensive strategy, where instead of putting yourself in vulnerable situations, you chose to distract the mind from the feeling.

“When you tend to eat out of emotion, the eating becomes reckless. Food is all around us, we must have self-control in order to enjoy social events without basing life on eating. It’s also important to know the difference between physical and emotional hunger so that you can learn to not use food as emotional comfort. The overall goal is not to eliminate food intake, but to minimize the food intake so that the portions are controlled in moderation,” Coach Marshall, Trinity Medical Weight Loss.

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