They’re called “comfort foods” for a reason. When life gets stressful or difficult, it can feel nice to indulge in small pleasures, but often it’s in the form of high-calorie or sugary foods. Although it probably feels good in the moment, emotional eating is a nasty habit that can affect your health. It’s OK to enjoy treats once in awhile because dessert is awesome, but food shouldn’t be used as an emotional crutch. Here are five signs you are eating your feelings.
Your cravings spike during stressful periods
You could be feeling very depressed or anxious, but whatever the strong emotion is, it has you suddenly thinking about pizza with extra cheese and chocolate ice cream. When our bodies are stressed, our brains literally tap into survival mode and cause you to crave high-calorie foods to give you an energy boost in case you need to fight off bears or something. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to be in survival mode most of the time, but our brains can’t differentiate the various types of stress.
You’re not even hungry
Unlike actual hunger which comes on gradually, stress eating does not require that you be hungry and often comes on suddenly.
The craving is mental, not physical
Generally, stress eating occurs because an emotional void needs to be filled. But feeling empty cannot be filled with food. When a craving comes to mind, try to break down your feelings to see if you’re actually hungry or if there is a deeper emotion plaguing you.
You eat mindlessly
You grab whatever is near and munch away. In this state, you don’t think about what you’re eating or how much. There goes that entire pack of Oreos…
You feel guilty afterward
You grab some snacks to eat, but you don’t even necessarily enjoy it. Afterward, when the binging is over, feelings of shame or regret may roll in. You may think, Why did I eat that? … I’m really failing at this “being healthier” thing … I’m so fat. These are understandable feelings, but beating yourself up after stress eating will make you feel even worse. Instead, recognize the feelings (perhaps write them down) and craft a plan of how you will conquer the cravings through other stress-busting methods next time.