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Question
Posted by: Jody | 2010-08-13

Emotional eating

Hi Doc

I think I'm an emotional eater... if I'm sad I eat, if I'm happy I eat. And I never feel full, it's like I'm constantly craving something that I can't put my finger on. The weight has piled on and I'm now considered clinically obese.

What can I do? I hate myself...

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageEating Disorders Expert

Hi Jody, You appear to have already identified that you eat in response to emotions rather than following " tummy" hunger or appetite. What is interesting is that you eat on the full spectrum of emotions, whether they are comfortable (happy) or uncomfortable (sad). Most people (and professionals) talk of positive and negative emotions, but I like to think of all emotions as holding a benefit, because they convey a message. For instance, when you are feeling sad, you are likely expressing a loss, or when you are anxious you are likely reflecting a danger that is real or imaginary. Depression suggests an emptiness while anger signifies violation of some sort. These are some examples of some uncomfortable feelings and serve as clues towards bringing about necessary change to a situation. Comfortable feelings like happiness, joy or excitement we hold onto, but are incapable of sustaining. What you need to do is try and first identify the difference between your different hungers: Are you emotionally hungry, in which case you need to listen to the feeling and possibly respond to an uncomfortable feeling by changing something (e.g., responding to danger by protecting yourself) or are you " tummy" hungry, in which case you body needs nourishment and you need to eat your meal or snack. Try eating a good, regular and moderate diet and you will not be too easily confused between the two. When patients come into treatment, I almost always make use of the dieticians on my team to help them with the design of an individualised meal plan. With that in place, the therapy can focus more easily on identifying emotional hunger and learning how to more healthily deal with, and express feelings. Hope this helps.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Eating Disorders and Obesity Expert | 2010-08-14

Hi Jody, You appear to have already identified that you eat in response to emotions rather than following " tummy" hunger or appetite. What is interesting is that you eat on the full spectrum of emotions, whether they are comfortable (happy) or uncomfortable (sad). Most people (and professionals) talk of positive and negative emotions, but I like to think of all emotions as holding a benefit, because they convey a message. For instance, when you are feeling sad, you are likely expressing a loss, or when you are anxious you are likely reflecting a danger that is real or imaginary. Depression suggests an emptiness while anger signifies violation of some sort. These are some examples of some uncomfortable feelings and serve as clues towards bringing about necessary change to a situation. Comfortable feelings like happiness, joy or excitement we hold onto, but are incapable of sustaining. What you need to do is try and first identify the difference between your different hungers: Are you emotionally hungry, in which case you need to listen to the feeling and possibly respond to an uncomfortable feeling by changing something (e.g., responding to danger by protecting yourself) or are you " tummy" hungry, in which case you body needs nourishment and you need to eat your meal or snack. Try eating a good, regular and moderate diet and you will not be too easily confused between the two. When patients come into treatment, I almost always make use of the dieticians on my team to help them with the design of an individualised meal plan. With that in place, the therapy can focus more easily on identifying emotional hunger and learning how to more healthily deal with, and express feelings. Hope this helps.

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