Expert advice, Nutrition
Life changing facts on emotional eating

Dr. Lakshmi K

Food Scientist

3 min read

 
When times get tough, our food patterns turn to eating emotionally. Some may just starve while others may binge. Did you know that there’s a connection between emotional eating and our food cravings?

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Know which hormones trigger UR food cravings


Cortisol, also known as the primary stress hormone, causes our emotions to fluctuate. This stress hormone regulates how our bodies utilise proteins, fats and carbohydrates. If you’re stressed or anxious, UR cortisol starts to kick-in causing you to have sugary, fatty and salty food cravings.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with learning about rewards. It usually kicks into gear at the promise when something positive is about to take place such as; eating your favourite food, indulging in an activity of your liking or more. The ‘comfort food’ we turn to sends a dopamine surge, making us want the high all over again.


Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must enter your body through your diet and is commonly found in foods such as nuts, cheese and red meat. Serotonin impacts every part of UR body, from UR emotions to motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It’s the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating and digesting. Serotonin also helps: in reducing depression, anxiety and healing wounds.


Emotional memories & food


Feeling uneasy or unhappy and being unaware of how to deal with our emotions can result in overeating. Cake, ice cream, sugary treats and other irresistible junk food come first to the mind.

Junk foods are associated with happiness as we have emotional memories around them.

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Comfort food & positive memories


Comfort foods are linked to UR favourite memories – Dadi ki dal, Ghar ka khana etc. Happy, comforting memories are rekindled through food. Slurping a bowl of Maggi or hot rice with ghee, dal and pickle can be mood elevators if attached to positive memories. When you feel rejected or anxious, eating any of these foods can instantly comfort you and bring back happy memories.

Be mindful when UR hungry, ask yourself whether you are hungry for food, or if you need something else.

How to control emotional eating


Emotional eating is acceptable when it is done in moderation. But, when this becomes a habit, it can be a sign of concern. It all comes down to how we separate our emotions from eating.

Remember that the purpose of food is to nourish. Food ideally should be treated as medicine.

Be mindful when UR hungry, ask yourself whether you are hungry for food, or if you need something else.

Do not confuse thirst for hunger.

Jotting down what you eat or taping notes on your fridge can help you recognise you’re eating patterns.

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A study conducted in 2018 by NCBI on Emotional eating and weight regulation: a qualitative study of compensatory behaviors and concerns suggests Emotional eating, or overeating in response to negative emotions, is a behavior endorsed by both normal weight and people with overweight/obesity. For some individuals, emotional eating contributes to weight gain and difficulties losing weight. However, there are also many who engage in emotional eating who maintain a normal weight. Little is known about the mechanisms by which these individuals are able to regulate their weight.

Ask yourself


  • Am I hungry or thirsty? Yes or no?
  • What do I want to eat?
  • What am I feeling?
  • Is it worth it?
  • If I eat what I want, what do I need to do in order to strike a balance?

Find a safer alternative to food when you need instant emotional support. Easier said than done, but it’s worth exploring. Try walking, gardening, cleaning UR home or indulge in healthy cooking. When we eat, the goal should be to enjoy the experience. No guilt after! Don’t be hard on yourself just be mindful.

Ask yourself


Take this simple quiz to know if you could be an emotional eater.













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