stressed woman sitting on the floor with weight scale in front of her

Emotional Eating: How An Eating Disorder Therapist Can Help

stressed woman sitting on the floor with weight scale in front of her

Do you frequently find yourself visiting the pantry whenever you’re feeling down?

Emotional eating acts as a response to feelings of stress, which results in you eating more than what you need or want. Many people turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to simply reward themselves.

When this occurs, we generally find ourselves reaching for unhealthy and high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods such as cake, pizza, french fries, and a variety of other junk foods.

However, emotional eating is not a solution for emotional problems, and can actually make you feel worse. Guilt at having eaten all the junk food sets in during or immediately after consuming these foods. Not only does your original problem remain, but the added guilt will make you feel worse.

Using food as a coping mechanism is both unhealthy and unfruitful, as it will not solve any problems but rather add to them.

Warning Signs of Emotional Eating

There are two main types of emotional eaters, ones who eat as a response to negative emotions and others who eat when they’re happy.

woman who is eating copious amounts of junk food as a result of stress

One of the most common signs of an emotional eating disorder is weight gain and trouble losing that weight. Even though you may want to lose weight, you have trouble maintaining your diet because you can’t seem to stop eating whenever you want to.

Another sign of emotional eating includes the tendency to experience an intense hunger all of a sudden, rather than gradually getting hungry.  Emotional eaters will seek junk food rather than preparing balanced and nutritious meals, as it’s quicker and has a higher satisfaction rate.

Feelings like boredom, sadness, guilt, and frustration can drive a person to seek comfort from food since it provides a temporary sense of wholeness.

Common Causes of Emotional Eating

In our sometimes chaotic and erratic world, we’re bound to feel stressed at some point in our lives.

When under stress, our body produces a hormone called cortisol, which triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods. The more uncontrolled stress you experience, the higher the chances of becoming an emotional eater.

man who is stressed from school or work at his laptopAnother trigger of emotional eating is the feeling of boredom or emptiness. The time it takes to make or purchase food temporarily distracts you from underlying issues such as dissatisfaction with your life or feeling like you don’t have a purpose.

Going out to eat with friends is a great way to unwind and relieve stress. However, it could also lead to overeating.

It’s incredibly easy to overindulge when you see everyone around you eating or simply because there’s food in front of you. Social settings can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for some people, which causes them to overeat beforehand to calm down.

How An Eating Disorder Therapist Can Help

Overcoming emotional eating involves learning healthier ways to cope with problems, developing better eating habits, and identifying triggers for overeating.

The diagnosis of an emotional eating disorder is made once the patient has undergone a physical examination and lab work, which helps rule out genetic or other medical conditions such as Cushing’s Syndrome.

Next, a professional therapist will begin asking questions to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind your emotional eating.  Working on identifying and coming to terms with underlying mental health issues is the first step in recovering from an eating disorder.

Eating Disorder Counselling in Ottawa

Do you eat to relieve stress or feel better about a bad situation?

Finding comfort in food is common amongst many individuals, however, if left unchecked, could lead to health issues more severe than weight gain.

Our expert eating disorder therapists will work with you to recognize triggers, develop appropriate and healthy ways to alleviate stress and reinforce mindful eating habits.

Reach out to us today to learn more about how eating disorder counseling can help you get back on track to leading a healthy and purposeful life.