As for now, due to the rhythm of life we lead, consultations for anxiety and symptoms related to it are the most frequent and common in psychology centers and clinics. Anxiety is a global term, and we define it as that emotional state characterized by feelings of fear, tension, and suffering in the face of a danger that is supposed to happen.
On certain occasions, the effects of living with anxiety can lead to bad eating habits. Many times we are not even aware, and cause what we call anxiety about eating; eating due to anxiety or emotional hunger, an increasingly frequent alteration in our society.
Eating anxiety is characterized because the person who suffers from it feels a great need to eat, a need that appears impulsively and uncontrollably. The person feels that he needs to eat, even if he is not really hungry, in order to satisfy “something” that is disturbing him. And that “something” translates into an emotional conflict that is not being resolved adequately. Therefore, the subject eats to satisfy emotional and never physical needs.
The problem here is not the person’s food, but the causes that make us eat compulsively.
The person eats because this makes them feel good in the short term and the act of eating releases numerous neurotransmitters such as dopamine that make us feel pleasure.
In a short time, the person feels bad again, again with anxiety. Why? Because the real and main cause has not been solved at all with the food eaten and also the possible feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse for the previous act that has served little purpose are added.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes?
Now that we know more about anxiety to eat, we are going to see the most common causes that can cause it:
People with low self-esteem and insecurity often feel dissatisfied, and when uncertainty and a feeling of emptiness threaten them, they try to fill this emptiness, often with food.
This sounds funny, right? Yes, I know. But let take a look at it together; let’s say we continually repress or control the urge to eat. Sometimes, we get the rebound effect. The person collapses and ends up eating large amounts of food in a very short space of time.
Ways to Calm the Urge to Eat
Identify the situations
Finding the moments when the need to eat appears, making a list of questions, and writing down the answers can go a long way. Let’s look at some of them:
- Why do I really have anxiety?
- At what times does it happen?
- Is it right after when I start eating?
- What happens or what do I think before I start eating?
If you properly examine these questions, you will surely see that your visit to the kitchen coincides with moments of stress and excess of worry; work stress, bad news, a discussion, hormonal changes typical of the menstrual cycle in women. If we are able to detect the moments in which this sensation appears, it will be much easier for us to anticipate them and develop strategies that help us avoid the compulsion to eat.
Not sleeping enough hours makes us more tired and irritable, and it also has a direct effect on our body, increasing hunger levels.
Involve in physical exercise
Moderate physical exercise helps us increase dopamine levels (in the same way that it happens when we eat) and relaxes accumulated tension, making it an essential ally when it comes to reducing levels of anxiety, stress and tension.
Other aids that can come in handy in relation to diet and feeling more satiated are:
Drink a lot more water: we often confuse thirst with hunger. So in the moments when you are interrupted by that sudden, urgent and immediate feeling of eating something after hours, drink water, this can help temporarily remove the intense feeling of hunger due to anxiety.
Eat slowly: enjoy the moment of eating, don’t be in a hurry, eat calmly and chew your food more and better, in this way you will do your stomach and your health a great favor in every way. You will have better digestion, and the feeling of satiety after eating will also increase.
Eat more protein and less sugar: foods and products with high sugar levels fill up in the short term, but then this feeling disappears very quickly. On the contrary, foods rich in protein fill us up for longer and are healthier (meats, fish, cheeses, seitan, tofu, etc.). Change your habits and take more proteins.
Add more fiber to your diet: as in the previous point, foods rich in fiber will also make you feel more satiated and, in this way, reduce anxiety and hunger. Eat whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, more legumes, nuts, and brown rice.
Incorporate low-calorie foods that satisfy hunger, such as energy bars, shakes, or even pills that will keep the snacking bug at bay.
And finally; Seek professional help.
Once you notice that the problem is maintained over time, you cannot eliminate the anxiety for yourself and negatively affect your quality of life. You should seek help from a professional in psychology to start together with the best treatment and to find the solution.