Emotional eating is turning to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward rather than to satisfy hunger. Emotional eating is so powerful that many times people confuse this with physical hunger. Many experts on the topic list the following facts to differentiate emotional eating from physical hunger.
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demands instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.
Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.
Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.
Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.
Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.
I have been an emotional eater for almost half of my lifetime. For the last 24 years, I have found refuge in food when I have felt my worst, this is worst because I am a chocolate and or bread lover. I was 98 pounds when I got married at the age of 20, many of you know how my marriage ended so I am not going to dwell on that but in the turburbalance of that experience I became an emotional eater and by age 30 I was 250 pounds!!! I have done all the diets programs you can imagine and more!
When I was appointed to work for the government of the Dominican Republic, I went with my children, my “mudanza” and my 250 pounds as part of my luggage. The vanity of the position, being on TV practically on a monthly basis talking about the issues affecting the region I was responsible for and society in general got me into the “vanity mode” of losing the weight and in less than a year I went to 148 pounds. To be honest with you, I did not realize the lost of weight until after the fact. It has always been the case that my stress level disappears when I’m back home. Having become more physically active along with eating more naturally got me to the 148.
As I reconciled myself with the Lord (when I divorced my ex-husband, I divorced God as well) and I turned myself into reading more His word and fellowshipping more with Him, I was reminded of what John 6:35 says “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
As my emotional health was being stabilized, I realized that regardless of how much physical food I consumed, if I am not spiritually fed, I will always be hungry and I believe that is why there are so many people in this country suffering of emotional eating disorders. We are looking to feed with food what ONLY the Lord can feed with His presence, His love, His care, His forgiveness, His acceptance, and His compassion to carry us through the challenges and obstacles that life brings with it.
At this point in my life, my eating habits have changed, 2 years ago after completing the Daniel Fasting for the first time, I started a journey that has led me to become a vegan (that has been a personal choice, the Daniel Fasting doesn’t require that you become a vegan after the 21 days); as I meditate on this journey of 2 years, I smile when I see that the Lord also helped me shift my eating habits by embracing my journey during the Daniel Fasting in a way that I never expected. He is so, so good to me, to us.
At the beginning of this message, I shared with you the definition of emotional eating as turning to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward rather than to satisfy hunger. How about if you consider making a conscience decision of looking for comfort and stress relief in the Lord? Let Him satisfy the needs of your soul and emotions. Let Him be the one that carry on your emotional and mental stress. Search for Him, talk to Him (pray) and get to know Him more, fellowship with Him; take the time to be silent with Him (let Him talk to you) and search for His commands and promises (read His word, the Bible).
Do you want to continue being an emotional eater? Then, do so for God. God bless you, be well.
Fathima P Torres is the Director of Wear Your Crown Ministries, headquartered in New York, NY, which hosts events, retreats and bible studies. Click on her name above to find her on Facebook.