Emotional Eating – Are You at Risk?

We all have those moments when we have found ourselves eating even though we are not hungry. Hell, I had that episode yesterday. This can be brought on by a myriad of emotions including sadness, anxiety, or boredom. Apparently, this is known as emotional eating and according to experts, it can put one at risk of eating disorders.

Dr. Ioannis Delipalas, Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr. Ioannis Delipalas, Consultant Psychiatrist at Thrive Wellbeing Centre stepped into The Beautiful Lifestyle Online, where he shared his two cents on emotional eating and whether you can be at risk.

According to the good doctor, food provides us with a sense of comfort when we’re feeling down. “Many of us are unaware of the extent to which our feelings can influence our eating habits, even though emotional eating has become an increasingly common problem.”

Additionally, food can temporarily help to soothe or distract us; and emotional eating may become a conditioned response to elevated stress or strong emotions. While we all enjoy the occasional binge now and then, emotional eating can lead to deeper problems if it goes unrecognized.

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating, or stress eating, is characterized by the tendency or urge to eat large amounts (often comfort food) to manage stress or other negative emotions such as fear, guilt, sadness, loneliness, or boredom. A person’s physical hunger appears gradually and can wait to be satisfied. In contrast, an individual’s emotional hunger appears suddenly and requires to be satisfied instantly, often with foods high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates.

Researchers have found that people can gain and lose weight when stressed. 40% of those exposed to stress consume more calories, 20% consume fewer calories, and 20% consume no calories. It is thought that emotional eating is related to binge eating disorder, which is the most common eating disorder.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder may include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating. Both of the following characterize an episode of binge eating:
    • Eating, in a discrete period (for example, within any two-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
    • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
  • The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
    • Eating more rapidly than normal
    • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
    • Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
    • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward
  • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
  • Binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months
  • Binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (for example, purging) and does not occur exclusively during anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

Are You at Risk?

Even though emotional eating is not considered an eating disorder, it can be a sign a person is at risk. In the event a person who occasionally overeats as a means of coping with negative emotions begins binge-eating compulsively, an eating disorder can be diagnosed. Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia nervosa in that someone with binge eating does not purge, whereas someone with bulimia purges following the binge.

Treatment of Emotional Eating

The consequences of binge eating disorders include obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus type II, and hypertension. In order to manage binge eating disorders, it is important to consider the following treatment options:

  1. Psychiatric assessment, medical consultation, and complete blood work in order to identify and address any underlying mental health problems
  2. Treatment by an ED therapist who is properly trained
  3. Nutritional education and monitoring of eating habits like emotional eating provided by a dietitian or nutritionist with experience in managing eating disorders


Source: The Beautiful Lifestyle

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