Rethinking Emotional Eating

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Many people who struggle with excess weight call themselves emotional eaters. And they never mean that as a compliment to themselves.

What is an emotional eater? Is a guest at a wedding eating  a piece of cake an emotional eater? After all, she is eating and feeling an emotion at the same time. What about someone who goes out to dinner to celebrate a wedding anniversary with a much-loved spouse? Again, this pairs eating with emotion.

In fact, how can we not be emotional eaters when we are human beings with emotions? What’s the alternative? To eat like an automaton without experiencing any emotion? That doesn’t sound very fun!

So the first thing it’s important to do is to stop berating yourself for eating when you’re experiencing emotion. That’s the humanness in you. In fact, eating is actually a highly adaptive way to respond to strong emotion. It calms us down when we’re upset or stressed. It occupies and excites us when we’re bored. It distracts us when we want to check out. No wonder people turn to food during times of intense emotion! It actually works to re-balance our emotions.

However, it isn’t always the most healthful strategy, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. So if you’re driven to eat when you don’t want to be eating, by what you think are emotional reasons, consider that your body, or your emotions, are trying to tell you something.

You body could be trying to tell you that it’s starving on a nutritional level. What cause that? It could be chronic calorie restriction. If you’re not getting enough food, your body will rebel and scream hunger just as it forces you to sleep if you’re sleep-deprived. Alternately, you could be eating plenty, but if the food you’re eating is low in nutritional quality (think processed foods, too much sugar, too many low quality carbs, not enough protein), you could be eating a ton of food and still be starving on a nutritional level. And your body will force you to eat more. Or perhaps you routinely skip meals, thinking that you’ll “save the calories”. Or you don’t eat until you’re ravenous and you then you overeat. The body needs regular doses of high quality, whole foods. When it gets what it needs, it’s far less likely to rebel and force you to binge or eat against your will.

It’s also possible that your emotional eating is trying to communicate something you haven’t heard about the circumstances of your life. If you’re lonely, or in a job that frustrates rather than nurtures you, or you’re in a significant relationship with someone that isn’t working, your drive to eat emotionally, to eat when it’s not based on your body’s need for fuel, could be a cue that you need to look at what’s going on in the bigger picture. Eating a dozen donuts is not going to improve your marriage or make your boss less of an ogre. But the desire to eat a dozen donuts is a message to your conscious brain that something in your life needs your attention.

So don’t hate on yourself for being an emotional eater. Know that there is a message in there for you. Now it’s your job to figure out what that message is. When you do, your experience with a gastric balloon will be that much more successful.

Author: Rebeca Espinoza

Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon.  You can find her on at Like the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon page on Facebook or follow us on Pinterest for healthy eating tips, inspiring quotes, videos and photos and more.

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