Our relationship with food begins at a very young age. During the first months of existence, children are believed to undergo the first stage of Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual development and that is the oral stage.
This stage lasts from birth to the 18th month wherein infants literally feed their needs through their mouth. They begin to explore tactile sensations, which is why they are often seen chewing or licking things, and instinctually explore new objects by putting them in their mouths.
According to Freud, infants in the oral stage learn that they can facilitate independence and the development of personal boundaries and that they are able to satisfy their needs orally.
This, studies say, can be related to oral fixation that is why some infants even after reaching adulthood find comfort through eating. This is the reason why some people find comfort in eating certain foods like pizza or steak when they are happy, and ice cream or chips when they are down. In the process, the food does not only satisfy hunger, it also quenches the feelings and gives comfort to the individual who is not really hungry. This is what emotional eating is about.
Differentiating emotional and physical hunger:
Once you know the signs and symptoms of emotional and physical hunger, it will be very easy for you to identify which you are experiencing.
- Emotional hunger happens suddenly, while the onset of physical hunger can be felt gradually.
- You feel the need to immediately satisfy your hunger or craving when you are emotionally hungry. When you are physically hungry, you can wait longer.
- Even after you’ve eaten your fill, the tendency with comfort eating is to keep on going to satisfy the emotional need. When you are physically hungry, you tend to stop eating once full.
- If you are an emotional eater, you crave a specific food and eating other food types will not appease your hunger. When you are physically hungry, you are more open to other options.
- Most of the time, emotional eating leaves behind guilty feelings, while physical eating does not.
Eating away the pain:
Almost everyone may exhibit emotional eating type behavior sometimes, since it can be considered as a coping mechanism to drown the negative emotions one may feel from time to time. But a huge problem arises when the person is choosing to satisfy his or her emotional hunger with unhealthy food.
The worse part of this is that since you eat even if you are not hungry, your body technically does not need the calories in the food you just ate. These then become extra calories which are stored and eventually become fat. This then is the reason a lot of emotional eaters become overweight.
Unfortunately with the amount of highly processed, over-sugared and high fat food readily available in the stores today, it is quite simple for emotional eating cravings to be met – on a regular basis if necessary! However, there is also a growing awareness of the signs, causes and positive treatments for sufferers of this affliction.
So if you recognize yourself as falling into the category of an emotional eater, take heart, help is available for you, and you have already taken the first step in overcoming this emotional bane by admitting your weakness.