Do you know and understand what emotional eating means?

Have you ever eaten a big meal and still felt an urge for more food?

Have you ever kept eating when you know you’re not hungry?

Maybe you know this or maybe you don’t, but there is this “hunger” that’s deep within, a hunger that you just can’t get rid of. So you do the first thing that your body urges you to do when you feel empty — you fill it up with food. This is a classic telltale sign that you are emotionally eating.

I hear many of my clients and the people I talk with say that they’re “emotional eaters,” but they don’t know what to do about it. I know overcoming any obstacle requires our attention first, and secondly, knowing the reason behind why we do what we do.

So how can you tell the difference between emotional eating or eating to satisfy a genuine physical hunger?

5 Signs That You Have an Emotional Relationship with Food

1. You NEED to eat a very specific food

When something comes up in your life that causes uncertainty, fear, or lack of control, we often turn to food to help ground us and to feel comfort. We turn to very specific foods that will bring us comfort, knowing we can be certain in one thing when all else seems out of control.

2. You keep eating after you’ve eaten a meal

When we emotionally eat, we are often using food as a placeholder for something else in our lives. Whether we are lonely, disconnected spiritually, or searching for our purpose in life, food can temporarily take the place of what’s missing. If you feel like you can never get full from a meal, you may be using food to fill up the areas in your life that yearns for something greater.

3. You eat fast

When we emotionally eat, we will often take our attention off the eating process and “numb out” during our meal. It’s uncomfortable for us to address certain stressors in our lives so the body turns to a very easy and comforting distraction — food. When turning to food for a distraction, the last thing the mind wants to do is pay attention to the very thing that is helping take our minds off that stress.

4. You eat immediately after an emotional event

If the first thing you want to do is eat after you’ve gone through an emotional event, be it positive or negative, chances are you’re emotionally eating. Whether you’re celebrating a promotion or grieving the loss of a loved one, your body will try to come back down to earth by turning to food. Food literally grounds us when we experience intense emotions.

5. You feel guilty about eating

After we emotionally eat, both the brain and the body are aware of what just happened, even if you don’t know what the trigger was. Feeling guilt or shame after you’ve eaten a meal is a red flag that you’re emotionally eating.

The Next Step

Now that you can recognize the signs of emotional eating, you need to find the root cause of the problem. Stress, boredom and painful emotions are just a few of the possible reasons behind emotional eating. Once you’ve found the underlying cause(s) of your emotional eating, the battle is half won. With the right approach, you can overcome emotional eating and be well on your way to better health.

Originally published at on November 9, 2015.