Is this a binge or just a little emotional eating? How do you really know when treating yourself with your favorite snack cross the line from comfort to concern?
The difference between emotional eating and binge eating lies mainly in how much food you consume. But, other key features may help you distinguish between the two and put an end to snacking that’s become unhealthy.
Stress shows up in a lot different ways. Most of us can relate to the concept of emotional eating. Ever catch yourself indulging in a container full of ice cream after a particularly stressful day? Emotional eating or stress eating is when you consume food not out of hunger, but out of anxiety, frustration, or sadness. For some, emotional eating is triggered by a particular traumatic event but for others, it can just be a habitual reaction to financial or emotional turbulence.
No need to worry…
Emotional eating is somewhat normal, and in some cases, better for your mental health depending on how you handle it.
In fact, emotional eating can be great for relieving stress with THE RIGHT FOODS, provided it doesn’t get too out of hand. Eating puts our body into a state of relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nerves. Indulging in and savoring the flavors of food feels good and can lift our moods instantly.
At a point, emotional eating gives way to self-loathing as we feel ashamed of our indulgence. We want to hide our “binging” episodes, but because of a lack of other emotional coping mechanisms, they spiral out of our control.
To prevent emotional eating from advancing to the next stage, we need to tackle the problem at its roots: stress, frustration, and other emotional ruts.
How to Manage Emotional Eating
- Take up meditation or yoga to simultaneously tackle stress and improve your self-discipline.
- Engage in a stress-free activity like painting or fishing and take plenty of time to distance yourself from whatever may be causing your stress – whether that is work, a stressful home environment, or relationship woes.
- To make sure your stress eating never borders on binge eating, keep a food journal. Records of your day-to-day eating choices will help prevent you from putting on unwanted pounds and improve your overall mindfulness when it comes to consumption.
- And finally, to manage your emotional eating in a far more healthier way, look for healthy alternatives to your favorite go to snacks such as oven baked sweet potato fries instead of the regular deep fried kind or carrot sticks and hummus instead of potato chips.
Binge eating, unlike stress eating, is considered by nutritionists as a potentially severe eating disorder. Characterized by constant overconsumption, BED (Binge Eating Disorder) involves consuming huge quantities of food in a relatively short span of time. It’s not just your average bloated belly after a heavy dinner, but a constant overeating that leaves the body uncomfortable and unhealthy.
The transition from emotional eating to binge eating occurs when you lose your sense of control. This means you move from being conscious of your reason for eating and how much you eat, to eating without any control over intake. It often leads to guilty eating, which is worse for your mental health and stress levels as well. This leads to a vicious cycle: your stress turns into binge eating, and your binge eating fuels your stress.
What’s worse is that the guilt of binge eating (which usually occurs when alone) traps us in shame spiral. When this happens we don’t want to reach out to friends or family for fear of revealing ourselves.
What if it IS a binge?
But BED is too serious of a condition to keep under wraps. Instead, it is vital to talk to someone if you are experiencing any one of its symptoms. Your attitude towards your body image, your history with other mental health complications, and eating habits in general could be contributing to BED.
Total recovery from binge eating is absolutely possible. It doesn’t need to take over your life. To start your healing process I encourage you to keep a food journal to track your habits to work out the emotional triggers that affect your binge eating and the thoughts and feelings you have while on a binge episode. This gives you amazing insights into the WHY of your situation so that you can easily manage the HOW of getting out of it.
Remember to remain body-positive. I am always here to talk if you need to. You can take advantage of the 20 minute free call if you feel you need some 1:1 guidance. It’s my way of giving back – I’ve know what it’s like to have a troubled relationship with food and having someone to lean on is the only way forward.