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EMOTIONAL EATING - CAUSES AND STRATEGIES FOR CRAVINGS

Posted 8-2-98. The following information about "emotional eating" is summarized from an article in First for Women, published 3/3/97, pages 90 through 93.   Click here to return to previous page.

OVEREAT BECAUSE CRAVINGS SUBSTITUTE
Stress:
  • Nervous, high-strung feeling
  • Never have time for balanced meals
  • Wolfed down last meal
  • Pulse and breathing rates feel accelerated
For: Sugary, starch foods such as pastries, candy, sugary cereals, French fries, potato chips

Why: Stress hormone, cortisol triggers release of insulin, in turn triggering a craving for refined carbohydrates (sugary, starchy food)

Complex carbohydrates and foods rich in vitamin B, such as: 
  • Brown rice
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Three-bean salad
  • Graham crackers
  • Bran muffin
Boredom
  • Eat to do something, even though you're not hungry
  • Want to munch while reading or watching TV
  • Feel stuck in a routine
For: Salty, spicy food such as nachos, tortilla chips with guacamole or salsa, cheese and crackers, salted nuts

Why: Salty, spicy foods stimulate the taste buds and salivary glands, giving a temporary feeling of stimulation.

Combine carbohydrates and proteins to increase mental alertness. Examples:
  • Baked potato with no-fat topping
  • Air popped popcorn with garlic powder or parmesan cheese
  • Whole wheat bagal with tofu spread
Fatigue
  • Looking for a pick-me-up
  • Lack the energy to exercise
  • Snack with coffee, especially if you drink mor than 4 cups of coffee a day.
  • No time for breakfast (sleep rather than eat breakfast)
For: Fatty foods such as fast foods, fried chicken or fish, ice cream, cheese, buttery or traditional popcorn. Also, cravings for coffee or cola for caffeine.

Why: Fatigue triggers the release of galantin, which in turn triggers the desire for fatty foods, such as a hamburger and fries.

Go for high-protein and mineral rich foods and foods that tend to stabilize blood sugar. Examples:
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Skim milk
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tofu burger
  • Lentil bean soup
  • Broiled fish
The Blues
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Use food as a substitute for company
  • Lost interest in things
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Use food as a comforter
For: Sweets, especially chocolate

Why: Chocolate, and many of the simple carbohydrates found in most sweets, release serotonin, a brain chemical that boosts your mood.

Foods rich in vitamins A and B-10, such as:
  • Whole grain bread
  • Broiled fish, grilled chicken
  • Acorn squash
  • Whole grain pancakes with fruit toping

And, some other strategies:

Stress
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Make breakfast with complex carbohydrates and protein a must.
  • Schedule time to eat, especially breakfast and lunch, allowing a minimum of 20 minutes for each meal
  • Plan meals ahead of time
  • Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates
Boredom
  • Eat several small meals rather than 2 or 3 large meals
  • Keep kitchen stocked with fresh fruit, low- or non-fat yogurt, and other healthy snacks
  • Busy yourself with occupations that keep you away from food
  • Keep your hands occupied while watching TV or reading; needlework is helpful, or worry beads while reading
Fatigue
  • Make breakfast with complex carbohydrates and protein a must.
  • Avoid short term stimulants such as sugar or caffeine
  • Avoid high-fat foods, especially at lunch
Blues
  • Eat only after a conscious decision to do so.
  • Cook for someone else (may provide more stimulation)
  • Do something that requires concentration

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