Control emotional eating by learning to cope with stress

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Why are you eating that? Do you know why? Many of us eat without thinking.

Going on a strict diet, feeling stressed, worried or being bored can lead to emotional eating that does more harm than good. Emotional eating leads to eating too much, especially of unhealthy foods, which can lead to unwanted excess pounds.

When emotions become tied to your eating habits, when you find yourself eating for no reason or using it as a distraction, you are engaging in emotional eating.

Emotional eating is generally used to suppress or soothe negative feelings of stress, boredom, loneliness, anger or fear in the workplace or at home, with relationships or for health and financial concerns. Some people engage in short-term unhealthy eating habits while others may impulsively binge eat, consuming whatever is within reach within a short amount of time.

The key point to remember is emotional eating is a cover, a quick fix. Whatever emotions lead to overeating will keep coming back. Without adequate coping skills, the emotional eating cycle begins. But how do we begin using food for comfort in the first place?

Research shows that with parents who use food to soothe their children or as an act of love or empathy, there is a greater chance for their children to grow up to be emotional eaters.

Giving ice cream to a child who is upset just to "make it all better" may stop the crying child, but that child quickly internalizes that sweets can make them feel better, and that sticks with them. To help break this cycle, parents need to help children find better ways to cope with stress.

If you feel that you are on autopilot when it comes to eating, start by identifying what triggers you to overeat. Keep a food diary to track what you are eating, when you eat, how you are feeling and how much you eat. You may begin to see patterns where you can make some changes.

Find other ways to cope with stress by exercising or getting involved in a creative activity. Lean on friends and family for support, or seek professional help if you can't seem to get emotional eating under control.