‘I tend to eat a lot when stressed. Is it a sign of emotional eating?’

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‘I tend to eat a lot when stressed. Is it a sign of emotional eating?’
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Do you often reach out for that packet of chips or sweets whenever you feel stressed? According to experts, it could be a sign of emotional eating or stress eating that can wreak havoc on your fitness and overall health. But what exactly is it, and why does it happen? We spoke to experts to understand more.

Why is emotional eating?

Most of the time emotional eating occurs because of high tendencies of negative emotions, low resilience, high stress, and anxieties, said Dr (PhD) Syed Zafar Sultan Rizvi, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, SLA, Noida International University.

“This type of (emotional) eating causes many problems that include obesity and sudden weight gain (due to unhealthy eating habits). Most of the research shows that 60 per cent of overeating is due to emotional eating behaviour in which a person suffers from emotional imbalance or negativity that leads towards fulfilling activities like eating,” Rizvi elucidated.

Stress belly is the body’s way of responding to stress. Sometimes, genetics play a part, too. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

Additionally, experts point out that the most common foods we run to when stressed are often high in saturated fats and sugars. “The nutrient quality is not the main issue. But once we allow ourselves to stress eat for a few days, we subconsciously consider it the only way to cater our emotions and it becomes difficult to get out of it.  Always remember that there is no harm in taking a break but do not let it be a habit. Habits turn into lifestyle and a lifestyle with bad food habits can lead to disease,” Dr Rohini Patil, MBBS, nutritionist and CEO of Nutracy Lifestyle said.

Why should you stop?

Besides affecting your fitness levels, such eating can hamper your immunity, too Dr Rizvi mentioned. Experts suggest that while focussing on the triggers, and not letting oneself feel deprived, one should look to engage themselves in other activities at such times. “If we can properly work on habit formation, like healthy diet and meditation regularly, then we can get rid of the emotional eating habits. Controlling thoughts and negative emotion through conceptualisation of problems and solving them through rational thinking is the best way ahead,” Rizvi said.

Here are tips to help you, as shared by fitness influencer Sim Valecha.

*Find other activities to deal with negative emotions- writing in a journal, reading a book etc.
*Start a food diary – note what you’re eating in a day so at the end of the day, you can look back and think today was different compared to yesterday and identify the trigger
*Think about the quantity of food you are consuming when emotional eating – instead of eating an entire tub of ice cream you can take it out into a bowl and eat.
*Seek support: Talk to a friend or join support groups.

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