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7 Ways Your Emotions Cause You to Overeat

7 Ways Your Emotions Cause You to Overeat

There is so much more to eating than food. Apart from the significant influence of your biology, it’s affected by place, timing, whether you’re alone or with others, and, of course, your emotions. How you feel, what you feel, and the intensity of your emotions can make the difference between reaching for the refrigerator and choosing to take a pass.

Are you eating to fill emotional needs and minimize or prevent emotional distress? Then you might just be an emotional eater.

We all have our ups and downs, but some of us have an emptiness or hunger that goes deeper. Sadness that won’t go away, confusion we can’t resolve, a purpose we can’t find. It’s an emotional need that can’t be pacified with food – even if eating feels good at the moment.

While it’s okay to eat as a reward or pick me up from time to time, it becomes a problem when your first instinct is to head for the pantry whenever you’re stressed out, upset, or lonely. We all need coping strategies, but this one can lead to weight gain, associated health problems, and eating disorders.

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Curious if your emotions are causing you to overeat? Here are 7 ways that this can happen.

1. You are overwhelmed by sadness or shame

Down and out? Let’s grab something to eat. Sad about that breakup? I’ve got some ice cream! Screw up at work today? Here, have a drink.

The number one thing you may want to do when you’re feeling sad is to numb the pain. This may mean reaching for food, particularly that of the high-carb, sugary, and fatty variety. There is a reason for this, as such food sets off a chain reaction that ends with the release of that feel-good chemical, serotonin. It’s more than just good taste. The food gives your brain the pick-me-up you need to feel better almost instantly. The irony is that this can backfire, causing guilt at all the extra calories ingested and the lack of control not only over your emotions but your food intake as well.

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2. Boredom sets in and what else is there to do but eat?

Picture this – it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you have nothing to do. You’re sitting in front of the television watching some garbage reality show, and you reach for a bag of chips or a box of cookies. A few mindless minutes later, it’s gone. What the heck just happened?

When you’re bored, you may not be fully attentive to your surroundings or actions. It’s the opposite of mindful – you’re not tuned into what you’re doing. This can result in extra calories ingested for no good reason other than to kill some time.

3. Your brain is on fire – with stress and anxiety

In our overcharged, hyperlinked, multitasking society, stress is the new normal. And most of us are desperately searching for ways to alleviate it. Enter food into the equation. Stress has been shown to increase intake of sweet, calorie-dense foods. Whether it’s alcohol, sugar, or a big heap of some comfort food, you may be hoping to find that holy grail of calm through food.

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What causes this? One culprit may be the high cortisol levels associated with chronic stress. As Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H. was quoted as saying in Shape Magazine, “The body assumes that with elevated levels of cortisol, physical activity will follow.”  In our day and age, we often don’t follow a stressful event with physical activity, but our body isn’t exactly clued into that. Since sugar- and fat-filled foods inhibit stress-related brain activity, the result is that we feel less stressed out after hitting that boat-sized plate of pasta. But like most good things in life, it won’t last, and the stress will return.

4. You want to connect to a prior time or event

Think back to a happy event in your life and you’ll likely recall a time with friends and family, novelty, connection, stimulation, and fun.  These are “sticky” memories, and what makes them stick is the complex, multi-sensory input of the experience. You may distinctly remember the smell, feel, sight, sound, and taste of foods you were eating at the time and connect it to the positive emotions you felt. Whether you realize it or not, you may be drawn to eating those same foods as a way to reconnect with memories of past events and loved ones.

5. You deserve a reward!

You kicked that presentation out of the park, got that promotion, or just finally drop-kicked that toxic person out of your life. You deserve a reward, right? Sure, there is nothing wrong with celebratory eating, and often it is just what you need. But if you reward yourself too often or find yourself coming up with new and admittedly flimsy excuses to do so (congrats to me – I showed up to work today!), then it can become a problem. 

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6. You need a friend

Food can evoke feelings of safety, much like a security blanket. So many who overeat talk about food as a distractor, a friend, a buffer against the blows of the outside world.

We’ve all felt the need for security or the comfort of a friend. When one isn’t around, food may be the best substitute you can find. But food will never fill the emptiness of being lonely, and it can’t protect against the pains caused by a sometimes cruel world.

7. You’re scared…

A lot of us are scared and for good reason. We have to navigate unsafe communities, problematic relationships, confusing work prospects, and internal struggles, all while being bombarded on a daily basis with multiple accounts of tragedy, illness, mishaps, and death. One way to mitigate fear is through food. Research has shown that fear can precipitate eating; and interestingly enough, a recent study showed that even the threat of certain emotions may promote overeating.

There is still so much to know about how our emotions, biology, and circumstance intersect to cause overeating and related health problems. A first step in maintaining a healthy weight is to become aware of the role of emotions in your eating. Next time you reach for a donut, ask yourself the question of whether you are trying to satisfy a physical or emotional hunger. The latter – though real – can’t be satisfied by food alone.

Featured photo credit: Ali Inay via images.unsplash.com

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Last Updated on November 18, 2020

50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

1. Believe It to See It

Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

3. Keep Looking for Solutions

Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

6. Always Ask Productive Questions

It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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9. Maximize Your Strengths

Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

10. Be in It to Win It

Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

11. Know That Success Attracts Success

People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

14. Be a One-Off Original

Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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20. Accept Challenge All the Time

Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

21. Make Your Own Luck

In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

22. Ignite Your Initiative

While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

24. Champion in Communication

Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

25. Plan Your Life Strategically

Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

28. Live by Core Values

Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

30. Don’t Get Carried Away

Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

34. Change Opens New Doors

People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

41. Swim Against the Tide

Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

48. Follow Through

Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

More About Success

Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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