Emotions affect eating and can cause problems

Emotional triggers can make teens eat at inopportune times or eat more than intended.

Emotional triggers can make teens eat at inopportune times or eat more than intended.

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People don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. People turn to food for comfort, stress relief or as rewards. Some people turn to food especially to solve or reduce emotional problems. Emotional eating is a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness.  Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix these problems. It usually makes one feel worse. Afterwards, not only does the original emotional issue still remain but eating may also create feelings of guilt. Experts estimate that 75 percent of overeating is caused by emotions.

“Many people feel that food can bring comfort. As a result, they often turn to food to heal emotional wounds. However, what they don’t know is that it is just making their situations worse,” said freshman Jasmine Basug.

When the body or mind is stressed, the body is flooded with cortisol, a stress hormone, which creates cravings for carbohydrates, sugar or fatty foods. Food soothes because of the chemical changes it creates in the body. Ice cream is a prime example.

Ice cream boosts the neurotransmitters and chemicals in the body that make one more alert and excited.

Researchers say, “Ice cream is first on the comfort food list. After ice cream, comfort foods break down by gender. For women, it’s chocolate and cookies; for men, it is pizza, steak and casserole.”

”When I’m sad, the first food I usually crave is ice cream and pizza. They somehow make me feel better,” said freshman Taylor Yee.

Eating can momentarily satisfy, but it is only a distraction.

Counselor Cleo Eubanks said, “One’s emotions sometimes fluctuate. For example, stress can make one overeat and this can cause one to be unhealthy. Unhealthy eating can cause one to gain weight.”

If emotional eating becomes a habit, it can prevent learning those skills which will resolve emotional distress. Still, emotional eating can be resolved.

Identifying emotional triggers and bad eating habits is the first step. This alone, however, is not sufficient to alter eating behavior. Usually, by the time one has identified an eating pattern as response to emotions or certain situations, it has already become a habit.

Developing alternatives to eating is the next step. When one starts to reach for food in response to an eating trigger, one can try activities to divert one’s attention. Going for a walk, talking to a friend or any other pleasurable activity can help reduce the need to eat.

“Eating problems can be resolved by eating right when it comes to snacking and getting the right amount of exercise every day. Instead of eating junk food as a snack, the person could pull out carrot sticks. Also, the emotional eating can be resolved by talking to someone. If you talk about your emotions with someone, then you will be able to think of solutions if there are problems. It won’t be as hard to deal with them on your own,” said freshman Katherine Hennion.

Eubanks said, “Learn different strategies on how to cope with emotional eating. Define what triggers emotional eating, eat right and talk to a trusted adult.”