“The Kitchen is the heart of the home.” “Food brings people together.” “Chocolate makes everything better.”
So why is emotional eating harmful? Heck, food is part of every celebration, sporting event and break-up meltdown.
When was the last time you went to a party with no food? No food, no party. Food is the unspoken star guest, complete with its own table and parking spaces.
Eating is ritual. It’s also essential. And the truth is that we aren’t likely to extricate it from the emotionally-spiced events of life anytime soon.
If food and eating are omnipresent, why is emotional eating harmful? Is it really harmful at all?
The essence of emotional eating is that food becomes a person’s response to emotional cues. It is a means of distraction in order to cope with uncomfortable emotions the person doesn’t know how to process.
Ironically, emotional eating isn’t limited to times of stress, loneliness and depression. It also accompanies celebration and can be just as mindless and excessive when a person is happy.
If you recognize yourself in this scenario, you will also recognize that when you feel, you eat.
Emotional eating has less to do with what you are feeling and more to do with that you are feeling.
At some point you learned that feeling wasn’t a safe experience or one that you could handle without food to mask it. Emotions like stress, happiness and sadness became triggers for eating.
Why is emotional eating harmful? The broad answer is that it establishes an unhealthy relationship with food. You become emotionally attached to it, despite the fact that it has no capacity to emotionally attach to you.
You give your power away to something whose meaning is completely at your mercy. Food is for your physical survival, not your emotional avoidance.
Emotional eating is both physically and psychologically harmful. Physically there is the risk of weight gain and its corollary ailments like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
In the case of compulsive or binge eating, the original emotional eating is aggravated to a new level.
In the same way that a drug addiction develops out of a tolerance for smaller doses, binging develops out of an increased need to stuff feelings. No amount of food keeps the feelings down, so the emotional eating turns into excessive eating.
If you have binged, you know what it is like to continue eating even when you are physically full. You may feel nauseous, but still go out of your way to find food and eat more. You’re eating becomes out of control.
Psychologically, emotional eating is harmful because you become emotionally dependent on food. It can literally become an addiction. And as long as you are actively living an addiction, the original emotional triggers continue to dangle in front of you.
Your fascination with food and eating is a one-sided affair. You may get the coveted release of serotonin, but the feel-good will be fleeting, and you will crave it more.
Between the physical and psychological effects of emotional eating, the end result is a dangerous loop of responding to emotional triggers by eating, only to feel physically awful and emotionally empty.
The weight gain and diminished health and energy inevitably sabotage self-esteem, serving to perpetuate an already painful cycle.
Why is emotional eating harmful? It assigns an impossible expectation to something intended for your physical sustenance. It destroys your physical health. And it robs you of an authentic experience of your own life.
You are stronger than you imagine, and your feelings are not monsters lurking under your bed. There is compassionate support available to help you face them head-on.
Let us help you take back your power. You can reach us here.