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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 May 25, 2019

20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

Spaghetti squash is similar to cucumber. It has a shell which is difficult to pierce and this hard flesh surrounds a hollow cavity filled with seeds. When you cook this vegetable, the squash flesh falls away from the inner cavity and only the reminiscent of spaghetti remains. You can get surprised and delighted to see how this vegetable transforms with cooking.

It can act as a great substitute to pasta. It tastes as delicious as the traditional pasta and is equally satisfying but healthier. It is gluten free and contains many nutrients like vitamin A, potassium and folic acid.

This incredible vegetable can be boiled, baked or steamed. And, a lot of recipes can be prepared with spaghetti squash as the chief ingredient. I’m sure the following recipes will make your mouth water.

Breakfast

1. Spiced Coconut Squash Breakfast Porridge

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    This unconventional porridge, prepared for breakfast, is a perfect dish to start your day. The ingredients include spaghetti squash, organic coconut milk, ginger, coconut flour, maple syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla extract. It has a comforting and creamy texture and is best served with fresh fruit topping. (Click here for recipe)

    2. Egg and Avocado Spaghetti Squash Boats

    2

      If you’re looking for a light, healthy, gluten free, vegetarian breakfast then avocado spaghetti squash boats is the best option. Besides chopping the squash, breaking the egg and slicing the avocado, this recipe doesn’t require much effort in its preparation. It tastes amazing with egg yolk and salsa and has a rich decadent texture. (Click here for recipe)

      3. Spaghetti Squash Frittata for One

      3

        This frittata, if prepared perfectly, can be an excellent choice for a healthy meal. It is a combination of lots of spaghetti squash, a few white eggs, some red pepper for color and texture, few onions and garlic for flavor, and some fresh herbs for brightness. This dish is usually served large in size and tastes great with tomato sauce and bean balls. (Click here for recipe)

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        4. Ingredient Spaghetti Squash Brunch

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          It’s a fast and easy breakfast that contains a poached egg and feta on a pre-roasted pile of spaghetti squash bed. The yolk from the egg floods through the scraps of squash underneath. It almost tastes like an Italian pasta and the light crumble of feta adds more calcium and protein. (Click here for recipe)

          5. Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns

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            A very healthy take on hash browns in which spaghetti squash is used in place of potatoes and coconut oil in place of butter. This reduces stress, inflammation and starch, making it healthier than traditional hash browns. It helps lose water weight as well which is helpful for weight loss. The final product is fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside. It is best served alongside some dippy eggs. (Click here for recipe and image source)

            Lunch

            6. Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

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              Spaghetti squash can not only replace Italian pasta but it can also replace the Chinese noodles. They are a delicious, satisfying dish, prepared by stirring and frying spaghetti squash with a rainbow of other vegetables along with a sweet smelling mixture of fish sauce, rice vinegar and soy. They are gluten free and grease free which makes them healthier. (Click here for recipe)

              7. Parmesan Zucchini and Spaghetti Squash with Pine Nuts

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                This dish is a marvelous combination of garlic, spaghetti squash, parmesan, toasted pine and zucchini nuts. It’s super healthy, gluten free, full of vegetables and delicious. Tossed with olive oil, this dish meets all the dietary needs and is perfect for light lunch. You can also add some chicken to increase protein.  (Click here for recipe)

                 8. Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms Parmesan

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                8

                  Though spaghetti squash provides low calories, you can add meaty mushroom and a good amount of parmesan cheese to increase the amount of calories. It’s a healthy, full of flavor, vegetarian dish, and has cheap and easy ingredients which you can find in market. The final product is yummy and satisfying and can make your lunch, perfect.  (Click here for recipe)

                   9. Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Fire-Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

                  9

                    A pile of roasted squash is flavored with a sauce made from five ingredients. The vegan fire-roasted tomato cream sauce is made from the mixture of tomatoes, cashews, basil, salt and water. This spicy sauce makes it more delicious and some small amount of basil adds fresh green color and flavor. (Click here for recipe)

                     10. Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash

                    10

                      Most of the dishes listed here are either Mexican or Italian. This recipe however will give you a fresh Asian feeling. To prepare this, all you need are spaghetti squash and peanut sauce, then by adding some ginger, lime and vinegar you’ll get one of the most delicious recipes. The texture of this dish reminds you of heavenly beaches in Thailand. (Click here for the recipe)

                      Dinner

                      11. Spaghetti Squash Comfort Bowl

                      11

                        This is the perfect kind of bowl that you want to have on a cold evening, sitting on a couch and watching TV. You’ll enjoy its lightly steamed veggies, allspice beans, and the strands of squash as well. It feels creamy but doesn’t seem too heavy. It’s a great dish with intense indulgence, with our best spaghetti squash, the warm beans, and the comforting steamed veggies. (Click here for the recipe)

                        12. Spaghetti Squash Crust Pizza

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                          As you already know, spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, but this dish here shows how these chewy shreds can make a great stand-in for pizza. You can add anything like meat or veggies to the base which is bound with egg whites and flour. The end product is a great gluten free dish. (Click here for the recipe)

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                          13. Spaghetti Squash Fried Rice

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                            Spaghetti squash works as a good substitute to the cauliflower as the base of a fried rice. This recipe includes almost all of the usual ingredients of a fried rice. With green onions, eggs, peanut oil, and some garlic, this dish gives a unique texture that you can never find in your local restaurants. (Click here for the recipe)

                             14. Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

                            14

                              If you’re looking for something delicious for the winter evenings, you’ll get fond of these cheesy spaghetti squash boats. To lighten it up, it is filled with tomato sauce, cheese, chicken sausage, parmesan and ricotta. You can easily complete its arrangement ahead of time and bake it before dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                              15. Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

                              15

                                This Mexican inspired dish has spaghetti squash as a serving bowl and inside it goes enchilada sauce, chicken, cheese, black beans and other veggies wrapped inside a corn tortilla blanket. You can also use spinach in place of the corn and black beans. Topped with sauce galore, this dish can be served as a family fun meal.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                Dessert

                                16. Sweet Spaghetti Squash Kugel with Apples and Raisins

                                16

                                  If you can afford spaghetti squash, coconut sugar, some eggs and few other ingredients, then this dish must be your cheapest choice. This noodle is a delight in all seasons. The addition of some apples and raisins results in its fruity freshness. (Click here for the recipe)

                                  17. Spaghetti Squash Coconut Custard Pie

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                                    With the fine sweetness from vanilla extract and coconut, this dessert can be a great hit among guests. The spaghetti squash drowns in an egg batter to make it lighter than a cream pie. You can play and experiment with the ingredients and see surprising results.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                     18. Spaghetti Squash Cake With Cream Cheese Glaze

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                                      This desert will be a delicious treat to those who are a fan of carrot cake. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable with pleasant taste, lending fiber, potassium and vitamins. So, if you drape it in cream cheese frosting, you will end with this mouth- watering cake. This dessert has so many health benefits and is also great for a Thanksgiving dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                                       19. Spaghetti Squash Kheer

                                      19

                                        Kheer is a rice pudding made by boiling rice with cow milk and sugar. But this type of kheer replaces boiling rice with noodles swapped out of spaghetti squash and cow milk with coconut milk. By pouring some ghee, you can add necessary richness in it. It is healthier than traditional kheer and can act as a great dessert for your evenings. (Click here for the recipe)

                                         20. Cinnamon Spice Spaghetti Squash Cake

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                                          By now, you must be surprised by the versatility of spaghetti squash. But your best surprise will probably come after you finish preparing this cake. This cake is a game changer. You’ll have the taste of lots of veggies like cinnamon, allspice maple syrup and ginger, all inside a single cake.  It’s a perfect treat for picky eaters. (Click here for the recipe)

                                          Featured photo credit: Spaghetti Squash with Fire Roasted Tomato, Olive and Baby Spinach Sauce via commons.wikimedia.org

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