So you’re a self-admitted emotional eater. “No big deal,” you say, “who doesn’t devour a big bowl, (or three), of ice cream when they are feeling down?” Don’t worry, we’re not here to condemn you; in fact we encourage the occasional dietary indulgence. However, when it becomes a regular occurrence, emotional eating can cause harm to both your body and your brain. Because the myWholeLife team is passionate about helping you take control of your health, we are going to share with you some rarely discussed information about the health consequences of eating your emotions.
The Emotional Eating & Blood Sugar Connection
Emotional eaters tend to consume large amounts of highly processed and refined foods. The problem with eating these foods is that they tend to be devoid of fibre and they are rapidly converted into sugar in your body. This causes your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, and overtime hypoglycemia (the term used to refer to abnormally low blood sugar levels) can develop. The hypoglycemia then triggers intense cravings, which can cause you to lose control over food. To compound the problem, hypoglycemia can also trigger stress and other negative emotions such as depression and irritability – which are the same emotions that drive you to comfort feed in the first place. So in effect, emotional eating causes blood sugar problems, and blood sugar problems cause emotional eating – and the vicious cycle sets the stage for numerous physical and emotional health complications.
There is a circular connection between chronic stress, emotional eating and hypoglycemia, with each one contributing to, and worsening, the other. These three things together also contribute to systemic (chronic) inflammation in your body, which further increases your risk for a variety of health problems. When you engage in emotional eating, you increase your risk for weight gain, obesity, type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, (which is a condition that is considered to be the precursor to diabetes). You also increase your risk for inflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and arthritis.[i] [ii] As if all that weren’t enough, the increased inflammation levels increase your risk for cardiovascular disorders such as atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and heart attacks!
Emotional eating, in conjunction with the blood sugar roller coaster that accompanies it, impacts every aspect of your emotional life. When you eat emotionally you often feel powerless over your cravings and guilty and ashamed after you give in to them. This can diminish your confidence and self-worth, and leave you feeling like a failure.[iii] Many emotional eaters also use food as a numbing agent and escape mechanism, and avoid dealing with the underlying issues that are causing them to comfort feed in the first place. Using food in this way is not only bad for your emotional wellbeing, it can also negatively affect your personal relationships. All of these factors, in conjunction with the physical consequences of emotional eating, vastly increase your risk for anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Finally, emotional eating can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with food and body size, and feeding your emotions is a slippery slope that may eventually progress into full-blown disordered eating.
Knowing the health consequences of eating your emotions is helpful, but if you don’t know how to properly address emotional eating, all the knowledge in the world won’t do you much good. Download our Blood Sugar App and Weight Management App to learn how to control your blood sugar, inflammation levels and body weight the healthy way. Finally, be sure to read our next blog post where we divulge insider information on how to overcome it once and for all!
[iii] “When Food is Love.” Roth, Green.