Chad A. Buck, PhD: Work/Life Connections – EAP and Health Plus I. What Is The Connection Between Food and Feelings?
- Early childhood experiences.
- Under stress, the body actually craves carbohydrates, which have chemical properties that soothe and relax us.
- Focusing mental energy on food distracts us from what we are feeling or prevents us from facing feelings.
- According to researchers at the University of Maryland, 75% of overeating is caused by emotions. Therefore, dealing with emotions appropriately is important.
II. Why Do We Crave Certain Foods?
- Research indicates that what you reach for when eating to satisfy an emotion depends on the specific emotions experienced at the time.
- According to an article published in the July 2000 American Demographics, "People in happy moods tended to prefer ... foods such as pizza or steak (32%). Sad people reached for ice cream and cookies 39% of the time, and 36% of bored people opened up a bag of potato chips."
- Salty = Boredom; Crunchy = Anger or Frustration; Spicy = Excitement or Intensity; Sweet = Joy and Contentment
III. What is the Difference Between Physical and Emotional Hunger?
- Comes on gradually and can be postponed
- Can be satisfied by any number of foods
- Once you are full, you are likely to stop eating
- Doesn’t cause feelings of guilt
- Feels sudden and urgent
- Causes very specific cravings (e.g., pizza, ice cream)
- More likely to eat beyond a feeling of physical fullness
- Likely to result in feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment afterwards
IV. Am I an Emotional Eater?
- Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
- Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you regularly eat until you are uncomfortable?
- Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
For more help with emotional eating issues, please call 936-1327 to make an appointment with a Work/Life Connections - EAP counselor.