At some point or another all of us have used food as a tool to comfort us with our emotions. Such food is usually fried, full of carbs, processed, or extra sweet. This food is commonly referred to as comfort food. It is meant to act as a distraction from people’s negative emotions. People use comfort food to make themselves feel better about undesirable circumstances.
Such circumstances typically cause negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and sadness. These emotions are uncomfortable for everyone. Different people cope with these emotions in different ways. An emotional eater will seek comfort through food to deal with their negative emotions. One example could be eating a bucket of ice cream after an unexpected break up. Another example of emotional eating could be someone uncontrollably snacking prior to a test because of anxiety. In both cases the individual is using food to distract themselves from their own emotions.
On the surface this seems simple enough, but we need to look a little deeper. What causes people to feel certain emotions? It's usually circumstances involving other people which cause emotions. In other words relationships are what cause us to feel emotions. The classic example of breaking up with our significant other is an instance which causes the emotion of sadness. This sadness is unpleasant so an emotional eater would reach for comfort food to numb themselves to the negative emotion. This is a direct example where important relationships can lead to emotional eating.
The test anxiety which leads to emotional eating is not so direct. We need to pause and think about why the test anxiety exists in the first place? Who is the test taker afraid of letting down? Does this person mean to put so much pressure on the test taker? Why does the test taker value this individual's opinion so much? All these questions give us a better understanding of the test takers feelings of anxiety. Leading to a much more comprehensive understanding of their emotional eating.
These are two of countless examples of circumstances which can lead to emotional eating. Rather than getting caught up on the specifics of each circumstance, it’s important that we look at the commonalities. Relationships are what cause the emotions which lead to people seeking comfort food. So, if we can have healthier relationships, we will be less likely to seek comfort through food.