8 Signs of Emotional Food Dependency

Our emotions allow us to orient ourselves, react quickly to change, to what is happening around us and adapt to it. Emotions arise before analytical and thinking processes.

In an acute stressful situation, emotions appear first and only then we analyze what caused them and why. Think of any stressful situation – first an emotion appears – anger, anxiety, joy, etc., and only then we try to understand the situation – why it happened, what to do next.

Often we begin to suppress our emotions in order to conform to society. In this case, the emotional reaction does not go anywhere, it remains inside us. Our unexpressed emotions get stuck in our muscles in the form of tension, because the level of stress hormone is very high.

How Emotional Food Dependency Affects Eating Behavior?

Stresses, conflict situations, a large amount of negative information, and joyful events cause us to feel certain emotions. And if we cannot openly express our feelings for one reason or another, we look for ways to cope with these emotions. And the most common way to suppress a reaction is to nourish it with food. And the bigger the emotion, the more food. So we can talk about the phenomenon of emotional eating.

Emotional eating is a dysfunctional behavior where food is used as a way to suppress feelings and emotions.

In emotional eating, the problem is not what was eaten – a bun or chocolate – but how much and most importantly “why?” it was eaten. In emotional eating, people use food as a way to deal with feelings, not to satisfy hunger. If this “stress eating” happens infrequently, it can be considered a normal occurrence that will not cause harm. But if it happens too often, especially unconsciously, emotional eating can affect weight, health, skin and overall well-being.

Emotional and Physical Hunger

Few people can see the connection between food and feelings. It’s important to learn how to differentiate emotional hunger from physical hunger. Here are a few ways to understand which hunger is really coming on:

  •  We can control physical hunger and tolerate it for a while
  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly in the form of a persistent impulse. Unlike physical hunger, which comes gradually and does not involve an acute desire for immediate gratification, emotional hunger is uncontrollable.
  • Emotional hunger causes us to turn to certain types of “comfort” foods. We want to eat a certain food immediately, we draw it in our mind, think about it, almost feel the taste in our mouth.
  • As a rule, the emotional hunger is not satisfied. Having eaten what the emotions demanded, the feeling of satiety does not come. Often you will see other feelings come in. A prime example is guilt, because of the fact that we went off if a diet.

Emotional hunger has no satisfaction either emotionally or physically.

Emotional Food Dependency

1. We eat under stress. A prime example would be not eating during the day when we are focused on work or study, and at night comes an overwhelming feeling of hunger that doesn’t go away with taking our usual portion of food. We overeat without controlling the portions.

2. We eat in response to emotions. When we are angry, frustrated, when we are sad, lonely or just plain bored. This response is embedded so deep in our subconscious that we don’t even think about it. We just automatically reach for food.

3. We seek comfort in food. When we feel bad, either we want to feel a sense of security or comfort so it feels good now. More often than not, we choose junk food.

4. We can’t lose weight, even with the knowledge of how to lose weight properly and what to do, because we simply may not last on a diet or restricted diet. We are haunted by constant breakdowns and overeating.

5. We eat without measure, losing control over ourselves. As a rule, the feeling of hunger is gone, but we continue to eat. It seems that the desire to eat lives a separate life. Here we can also note that people who suffer from emotional eating, even on a walk will definitely go in to buy a coffee with “yummy”. No matter how much we ate, we do not feel sufficient satisfaction.

6. We eat when we feel happy. If we accept food as an integral part of joyful emotions. In many cultures, people eat to celebrate good news, joy, meeting loved ones. For example, let’s take a situation where you can’t refuse a feast, realizing that for whatever reason you should have done so. This may indicate that there are violations related to internal values and beliefs. This is where the “I agree to eat to be accepted, to be in the pack” pattern may come through.

7. We think about food even when we are full. When we are full and have gotten enough food, but we keep thinking about food. For example, we have just eaten lunch, we look at the clock and fix that it is 4 hours until dinner, we literally start counting down the minutes until the next meal.

8. You get random cravings for food for no reason. You feel like if you don’t eat a certain food now, you won’t have a good day.

The problem with emotional eating is that food only temporarily overrides the emotion rather than completely eliminating it.

Stages of Emotional Overeating

1. Trigger. An event that creates intense emotional tension or discomfort. News, actions, thoughts, feelings, reminders, or trivial boredom.

2. A desire to relieve emotional discomfort with food.

3. The action of satisfying this craving and the actual ingestion. At this stage, dopamine is released, which is felt as pleasure, fullness of life.

4. Compensation. It is manifested as regret: “I need to fix everything”, “tomorrow/the rest of the day/next week I will not eat”, “I will train harder”. Compensation increases the craving for emotional eating because it creates a lot of stress that has to be compensated for and the cycle has to start all over again.


The problem with emotional eating is that food only temporarily covers the emotion, not completely eliminating it, much less the cause. It is like symptomatic treatment of a disease – it works temporarily, but it has certain consequences:

First, contact with the body is lost; the body stops distinguishing between true physical hunger and emotional hunger.

Second, the boundaries of hunger and satiety are blurred. With emotional overeating, it is very difficult to get a sense of satiety

Third, by drowning out our emotions we become more and more miserable every day.

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