One of the most talked about reasons for gaining weight or suffering from perennially-changing body weight is emotional eating. This refers to a mind-body disorder where people develop such obsessive eating tendencies that it directly affects the overall quality of life, i.e. beyond the aspect of just gaining or losing weight. Emotional eaters are prone to being overweight and always cringing over the extra pounds they are carrying. However, there is no rule which says that malnourished or severely thin people cannot be emotional eaters. Emotional eating is a complex state of the mind where food ceases to be just a part of daily life. It takes precedence over everything else, leaving the affected person in a state of self-pity and prone to developing serious mental issues.
This is also referred to as mood-based eating where a person’s primary response to a situation of grief, happiness, anxiety, etc. is expressed via the kind and amount of food consumed. Eating too much in direct correlation to whether you are upset or happy is the first sign of emotional eating. Basically, many foods tend to induce short phase of gratification and happiness. Sweet foods like ice-creams and chocolates are common examples of this. Some people become addicted to this short-lived feeling of goodness and seek the rush again and again. Every time, such people are facing the blues or have anxiety due to household or workplace issues, they seek solace in eating their favorite foods. Eventually, this obsession of remaining happy by eating takes over their lives and they cannot disconnect themselves from eating foods that placate their mind. This can be rather frustrating cause of weight gain since the mind begins to associate the feeling of goodness with eating more and often, unhealthy foods.
Contemporary times have made people lose their connection with each other. Earlier, things that were best expressed with a hug, partying-out or hosting a dinner are now updated on social media handles and text messages. This has resulted in a very basic human need for being applauded or appreciated being neglected. Many people start to fill this void with food where they start treating themselves for the smallest tasks they have completed. Usually, this develops into an unbreakable pattern where the emotional eater seeks the smallest of reasons to devour a plate full of apple pie or gulp down cream-laced lattes. This is a kind of emotional eating that is rather hard to break since it is a way of the mind to substitute for socializing or companionship.
This is more commonly found in teenagers and children. These are individuals who have bottled-up emotions and cannot find a suitable way to express their feelings at home or school. Usually, such repressed children seek comfort in certain types of food often associating eating with a feeling of redemption and revenge. For instance, a teenager might consume loads of chocolates every day despite being fully aware that he is putting on weight. Here, unexpressed anger towards parents or the school environment is making the child use food as a weapon, i.e. to express anguish.
Surprisingly, most emotional eaters are very aware about their problem. They are not oblivious to how they are fixated on food. Most of them suffer from severe guilt pangs where they realize that eating excessively is harming their body beyond redemption. However, they cannot break through the cycle of emotional eating and guilt, breaking into the same patterns which often include phases of extreme food-denial. This is because of a type of compulsion that overrides their sensibilities where they feel that food is the only way through which they can express, react and emote. The guilt leads to irritation, remorse, self-apathy and often, low self-respect which can trigger cycles of depression and serious psychological issues.
This is perhaps the most understated symptom of emotional eating. Most emotional eaters don’t understand the fact that they are eating without actually feeling hungry. Since their state of mind overrules the hunger centers located in their brain, they eat every time their psychological state changes. This usually leads to eating to the extent of becoming vulnerable to lifestyle diseases like cardiac problems and diabetes or developing high levels of cholesterol. However, even if their deteriorating health status is confirmed, most emotional eaters cannot change their habits because the issue is rooted in their minds.