1. You’re eating when you’re stressed. This may be based on the situation at home or work.
2. You’re eating even after you’re done with your meal.
3. You’re eating to make yourself feel better.
4. After you’re done eating, you feel ashamed or regretful about why you ate.
5. You’re indulging in your favourite foods too often that may be high in calories
Why we indulge in emotional eating
Clinical nutritionist, Dr Ishi Khosla says, “The link between food and mood is not new. People have associated eating certain foods with a person’s mood. This has been long established, even in Ayurveda.”
Emotional eating or eating for psychological reasons works like an emotional compensation, says Annie Baxi, a psychological counsellor. People who are foodies often end up using food as a mean to compensate for their emotions. It gives them a sense of gratification.
Emotional eating, however, should not only be linked to negative feelings, it may also be positive in nature. For example, we do not only eat when we are sad, we also indulge (and over indulge) when we are on a holiday with our loved ones.
This form of reward from eating may begin when we are young. Our parents may reward us with a chocolate when we did well in our exams or pacify us with an ice-cream every time they lost their temper. This way we end up rewarding/compensating ourselves with food.
“Certain ways in which food affects our mood includes an impact on blood sugar levels, an effect on nutrient deficiencies or stimulation of certain food sensitivities. For example, a drop in blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) can cause irritability, depression, fatigue and moodiness,” says Dr. Khosla.
Why emotional eating in not healthy
Comfort foods that are high in starch are usually the trigger points for most to indulge in emotional eating. These can be ice-creams, chips, or chocolate. According to Dr. Patri, this indulgence is only a way of coping with yourself when you’re upset.
For media professional Gunjan Arora, emotional eating was a way to elevate her mood. “It gave me a sense of comfort and worked like a medicine. I started when I was still in my teens.”
For many like Gunjan, emotional eating starts early, without them even realising it. There are certain ways of detecting it before it gets worse, and/or translates into severe health problems. As parents, look for emotional fluctuations in your child’s behaviour and as adults, seek help from those who are close to you.