Monday, July 18, 2011

Addressing Emotional Eating Habits

I've been researching anti-inflammatory foods for the last several months. I've learned a lot about the nutritional value of eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains and lean meats to aid in healing my body. I know to avoid inflammatory nightshade vegetables. I understand the difference and benefits between Omega 3 and 6 fats. And I know how to adjust my food choices to compensate for my digestive disorders. There are links to all of the posts I've blogged about. But to be perfectly honest with myself, I'm having trouble with emotional eating, especially at night.

I've identified one source of this type of eating (for me) as a result of taking multiple medications late in the evening. I take 10 tablets between dinner and bedtime. My thinking has been that all this medicine upsets my stomach, so I have a little (too much) to eat. Now that I've learned I have Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Gastroparesis (paralyzed stomach), I realize I'm only adding more stress to my already compromised digestive system. So why do I do continue to eat at night? There's more to this than just what I thought was a physical feeling.

I don't have all the answers yet. But I have been researching emotional eating on several websites, including WebMD and NIMH. The Mayo Clinic defines emotional eating as [a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress (physical and mental), anger, fear, boredom, sadness (depression) and loneliness. Major life events and the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt your healthy eating efforts. Sometimes the strongest cravings happen when you're at your weakest point emotionally.] Well I certainly fall into the category of daily life triggers. Besides the health issues listed above, I also manage chronic pain from Fibromyalgia, Arthritis and Neuropathy, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Hypercholesterolemia, Diabetes and Liver Disease. My body is under a lot of stress every moment of every day and has been for 30+ years.

On Women's Health ( there's an article that addresses the mindset of "dieting" or limiting food selections. For those of us with Diabetes, we must keep track of the type and amount of  carbohydrates we eat, in order to stabilize our blood sugars. Having the mindset of tracking foods, keeps us in control - or so we think. However, mentally we are always thinking about food and making a judgement of whether we're staying within our boundaries. If we eat too much, or eat a restricted food (not within our food list), we tend to beat ourselves up. This negative thinking can cause depression or a sense of failure, and we give into the notion of that we have no control after all. Our negative thinking patterns can have a destructive influence on our eating behaviors.

So I went on to research the psychology of eating disorders (, night eating syndrome (, and the role of caloric intake on sleep disorders ( All very interesting stuff. What I discerned from these various articles was that treatment for eating disorders usually involves anti-depressants, possibly an appetite suppressant, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  The underlying concept behind CBT is that our thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in our behaviors. Since negative feelings or thoughts reinforce faulty beliefs about ourselves, we can change those thoughts by first identifying them. The next step focuses on learning and practicing new skills to cope with the eating disorder (night eating).  CBT is a gradual process which makes incremental steps towards changing a destructive behavior into a positive healthy behavior. CBT entails multiple strategies and is well-suited as a short term treatment option.

This is definitely something I will think more about and talk with my doctor about. I hope this has been helpful information for you personally or to think about the effects it may have on your co-workers, friends or loved ones. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is critical to helping our bodies heal, but it may require we take an in-depth look at our eating habits.


  1. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly. I’m quite certain I will learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  2. A few years ago, I had tremendous health and living problems. I ended up living in a shelter. I started eating healthy (for the most part) snacks in my bunk. Almost all the women did this-it was a way to buck the rules, and was comforting. I am not overweight, but I've continued this 'habit' and there definitely is an emotional aspect to it. Only in the last few months I've considered it a problem.
    Thanks for your info!