Food has that quirky way of letting you know you’ve had enough of it after you’ve eaten the appropriate amount. People eat in different capacities based on what their body needs. Some eat for survival (whenever they’re hungry), some eat to lose weight (dieting), and others eat when they’re not actually hungry but sad. Feeding your feelings with food will only numb them momentarily. It will not fill the void or rectify the situation. These are some of the ways how you can recognize and remedy emotional eating.

Using food to mask negativity

Do you find yourself needing ‘comfort food’ whenever you’re stressed, lonely, or feeling blue? Doing this once or twice a month doesn’t mean you’re an emotional eater. But in a higher frequency, it becomes undeniable that you might be conflating emotional coping with hunger. When these emotional eaters feel a sense of emptiness or void due to a breakup, job layoff or grief, they immediately think food is a way to get out of that trance.

And with one bite comes the next, the next becomes the third plate and before you know it you’ve gone through an entire month’s supply of food in one sitting. Emotional hunger is different from physical hunger as it is immediate. It doesn’t leave any fullness cue, it focuses on certain foods, aka comfort foods, and leaves a pang of guilt or shame once you’re done.

Dealing with an emotional eater

The first step towards helping someone who eats their feeling would be to rid them of any common offenders found in their pantry/freezer. This will prevent them (or you) from bingeing on unhealthy snacks. So, if you have a family-size box of Oreos sitting in your kitchen, you should probably give them to a friend who doesn’t find the need to fill their feelings with tasty cookies.

Next, encourage them to explore other methods of dealing with their stress, afflictions, or trauma. This could be opening up to someone, try exercising, yoga/meditating, and going to therapy. It’s a healthier approach to managing negativity rather than binge eating, and they will notice results after a few sessions.

Lastly, encourage a doctor visit to prevent an eating disorder relapse in the future as this is likely to occur in heavy binge eaters. It’s healthy to recognize that disordered eating might be leading to weight fluctuations, and it’s not merely your natural body state.