While there is no shortage of diet books, holistic nutrition strategies and new fitness equipment on the market, the problems of being overweight and obese continue to grow with the number of people being affected by these serious but preventable conditions. There must be something else going on here.
We all seem to have some kind of relationship with food. We don’t just use food to satisfy our physical hunger; we sometimes use it to quell our emotional hunger as well. As we learn more and more about why we eat and why we choose the foods we eat, we begin to understand how our emotions play such an instrumental role in our health. Roger Gould, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and author of “Shrink Yourself: Break Free from Emotional Eating Forever,” defines emotional eating as eating to satisfy emotional hunger. By doing this, you are just using food as a way of coping, to comfort yourself and to deal with life. In other words, you eat for a variety of reasons, other than what you actually need.
At one point or another, we all take part in emotional eating behavior. Reaching for chocolate after a disagreement with your spouse or comforting yourself after a grueling meeting at work with an entire pizza are prime examples of emotional eating. But when this condition goes too far, it crosses the line into food addiction, where you actually lose control over what and how you eat.
According to Dr. Gould, we all have emotional hunger. The way in which we respond to hunger establishes the difference between a non-emotional eater and an emotional eater. If somebody is challenged, the emotional eater would reach for whatever food will supply a moment of comfort quickly. Our comfort foods are usually not the healthiest of choices – and are certainly far from a holistic nutrition approach, generally including ice cream, refined carbohydrates, heavy pastas and fast food.
We pay little regard to nutrition, health or even real hunger when we engage in emotional eating. Eating itself is very hurried, with little regard paid to what is actually being eaten and when we approach consumption this way, we are very likely to overeat.
When we are looking for security and solace, food can offer us a safety net and a refuge and a relief from emotional stress and discomfort. Food becomes the drug that distracts us from whatever discomfort we are feeling. The more we emotionally eat, the less likely we are to focus on the real cause of our unrest.
Food presents us with a temporary respite, however. The feeling that drove you to emotionally eat in the first place is still there, and will quickly return. And worst of all, now there are usually new feelings of guilt, remorse, anger, and isolation once you have given in to the emotional eating.
Wanting to change something and actually changing it are two different things. It’s difficult for the person who is prone to emotionally eat to see the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. You need to examine how your relationship to food actually promotes this type of behavior.
Understanding food addiction’s powerful grasp and the underlying issues that lead us to emotional eating are paramount in helping us to recover and heal. Once this understanding begins to take form, holistic nutrition can ‘set the stage’ for a long term, yet full recovery.
Tags: Health and Fitness