Topeka health experts explain emotional overeating


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) At some point or another, we all eat our feelings out and the food you eat while emotionally eating, is not usually the best for you.

“Food is such a huge part of our lives and yeah, I definitely do reach for things that I probably shouldn’t, but I do,” said Topeka resident Sara Wilder.

Emotional eating can happen at any mood.

Registered Dietitian at St. Francis Health Center Mary Beth Haney said we are using food to fill that emotional void in our lives.

“If I am happy I’ll eat a cookie every now an then. When I am upset I tend to reach for the crunchy stuff and take my aggression out on a potato chip or two,” said Wilder.

A major form of emotional eating is when you’re not aware of what you’re doing.

“The biggest forms of emotional eating that I see are grazing. If you think about it and take the time to eat, you’ll feel full.  But if you’re sitting in front of the TV and that bucket of M&M’s is there, you’re watching your favorite show, and you keep taking one after the other.  When the 2 hour movie is over, you’ve demolished those m&m’s,” said Dr. James J. Hamilton Jr., a surgeon at St. Francis Medical Center.

The best way to control emotional eating is to stop and consider what you’re doing.

“Take a moment, pause and see if you really are hungry or if it’s truly that craving. Then maybe wait 5-10-15 minutes, and after that time if you’re truly hungry, take the time to perhaps make a healthier choice.”

Doctors recommend using the acronym H.A.L.T when people are using addictive behaviors; hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness.

“If patients are experiencing these feelings I often ask them to ask themselves what they really want when they’re ready to have that extra snack,” said Hamilton.

Another solution is don’t put it in your pantry in the first place but since we all emotionally eat every once in a while, how do we know when it becomes a problem?

“Measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a ratio of height to weight is a great way to do that.  By looking at that number we can all tell where we are in the scale. A BMI of over 25 is overweight.  A BMI of 30-35 is obese.  Anything over 35 is when it’s getting to be a problem.”

Coupled with regular exercise, avoiding emotional eating will help you maintain a stable weight. Remember, it’s always much harder to loose the weight than gain it.

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