3 Different Reasons Why People Turn To Emotional Eating

Disclaimer - The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Food is an enjoyable part of life and an important part of many cultures around the globe. Going out to a restaurant to savor a gourmet meal can be a fun way to celebrate a special occasion, like a birthday or anniversary. We eat certain foods on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. For many, eating can be an enjoyable part of the way we live our lives. Yet for some, food can become a form of addiction that causes negative consequences.

It’s important to recognize that an eating disorder can become a disruptive issue in someone’s life. Just discussing an eating disorder can be triggering to some people. If you or someone you know is experiencing an eating disorder, please visit BetterHelp’s resources on getting treatment for an eating disorder: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/eating-disorders/how-do-you-get-treatment-for-eating-disorders/

In this article, we’ll look at three common ways people use food to help them temporarily cope. By understanding more about the way food can be linked to coping mechanisms, we can begin to take more control over negative patterns that may be causing us distress.

There Are Different Reasons Why People Turn To Emotional Eating

With emotional eating, there are many different kinds of feelings and reasons why people use food. But the way food is used as a coping mechanism generally works the same: When someone feels a form of discomfort, they turn to food to temporarily relieve the discomfort. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common reasons that cause people to turn to emotional eating, in order to better understand some of the patterns.

Emotional Eating Because Of Boredom

One of the most common ways people use food is simply to fend off boredom. It’s understandable to want to grab some popcorn while watching a movie. But emotional eating out of boredom has a distinct purpose. For those who are eating emotionally when faced with boredom, they may be seeking out food as a form of entertainment to lift their mood.

The popcorn at the movie theater may be associated with having fun, but it may not be a good nutritional choice for that person reaching for the popcorn.

Emotional Eating To Cope With Stress

There are also people who experience stress eating, which is when someone uses eating to help them get through a difficult task or push through a time of emotional turmoil. They reach for food in that moment of stress or anxiety when they feel the need for something soothing. Often in stress eating that means reaching for junk food designed to release feel-good dopamine.

Unfortunately, the original cause of the stress isn’t being dealt with by reaching for food, it’s a temporary way of coping with our feelings that may even lead to avoiding them more. There are also nutritional issues with eating junk food, which may impact our overall health.

Emotional Eating As A Form Of Reward

For others, food may become a kind of reward system. As a kid, going for ice cream as a reward for a good report card may have been common. Using food as a reward is something that many of us have experienced at some point in our lives, often without giving it much thought.

But for people who engage in reward eating, food can become tied to their sense of self-worth and be accompanied by other negative effects. Remember that any time food is used as a source of reward, or on the flip-side a source of punishment, the practice can lead to wiring us to unhealthy eating patterns.

No matter which of these styles someone engages in, it’s important to remember that there is an association being created when food is used for something other than the nourishment of our bodies. Fortunately, there’s almost no reason to settle for continuing a pattern you no longer wish to continue. There are proven ways to create healthier associations with food, even after a pattern of emotional eating has been established.

In Conclusion

We all need food to give our body nutrition and provide us with the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy. But if you identify yourself using food as a coping mechanism, don’t hesitate to get the support you need to change your patterns with food. There’s help out there, and you don’t have go it alone when taking control of your relationship with food. 

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