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Emotional Eating: The Food-Feeling Connection

Healthy

Nutrition

Emotional eating is a common problem people go through. If you frequently reach for a snack when you're anxious, lonely, or overwhelmed, you might be an emotional eater. We have all been there, feeling overwhelmed and stressed out and reaching for food to help us feel better. But is this really an effective way to cope with our emotions?In this article, we will explore the concept of emotional eating: what it is, why we do it, and how to stop it.
 What is emotional eating?If you’ve ever found yourself eating when you’re not physically hungry, you may be experiencing emotional eating. Emotional eating is a form of coping with stress or negative emotions. It’s often used as a way to cope with boredom, sadness, anxiety, or even happiness, and can also be triggered by positive emotions like happiness or excitement. This is due to dopamine, a brain chemical released during eating that elevates our mood.Emotional eating is often characterised by bingeing or overeating and can lead to weight gain or other health problems. 
 It’s important to note that emotional eating is different from simply enjoying food. Emotional eaters often eat even when they’re not physically hungry, and this may provide temporary relief from the pressure they undergo.
 Emotional eating: why do we do it?If you find yourself frequently engaging in emotional eating, it’s important to understand why you do it. There are many reasons why people emotionally eat.A lot of things tend to make people crave food. The following are some common extrinsic causes of emotional eating:1)Work stress2)Financial worries3)Health issues4)Relationship strugglesOther internal causes may include one’s lack of ability to understand, process, or describe emotions or the inability to manage them.If you're struggling with it, it's important to understand the reasons behind it and find a way to address the issue.
 Consequences of emotional eatingWhile emotional eating may offer temporary relief, it can also lead to long-term consequences like weight gain, increased risk for chronic diseases, and an unhealthy relationship with food. Some of the disadvantages of emotional eating include:1)Weight gain or obesity2)May contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.3)Eating disorders such as binge eating disorder or bulimia4)Unhealthy relationships with food and body image5)Feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety

Emotional eating and geneticsThere are many factors that can contribute to emotional eating, and one of those is genetics. One gene that has been associated with emotional eating is ANKK1. It is involved in the regulation of dopamine signalling in the brain, which is known to play a role in reward and pleasure pathways. COMT (Catechol-O-Methyltransferase) is an enzyme that breaks down dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Genetic variations in the COMT gene can influence dopamine levels and affect an individual's susceptibility to emotional eating. Specifically, a variant of the COMT gene called Val158Met has been studied in relation to emotional eating. The Met allele of this variant has been associated with higher dopamine levels and a higher risk of emotional eating behaviour.Identifying genetic variants associated with emotional eating can provide valuable insights into the biological mechanisms underlying this behaviour. It helps in understanding why certain individuals may be more prone to emotional eating than others. By knowing the genetic predisposition, it may be possible to develop personalised interventions or coping mechanisms targeting these specific genetic factors.The good news is that even if you are genetically predisposed to emotional eating, there are things you can do to prevent it from becoming a problem in your life. If you're aware of your tendencies, you can develop other coping mechanisms for dealing with emotions. You can also make sure to eat healthy foods and get regular exercise, which can help keep your body and mind healthy and balanced.Stop struggling with emotional eating!If you're struggling with emotional eating, here are some tips to help you stop: 1. Be aware of your triggers. When you're aware of your triggers, you can start to address the underlying issues instead of using food as a coping mechanism.2. Find other ways to cope with your emotions. Once you know your triggers, brainstorm other ways to deal with the emotions or situations that lead to emotional eating. 3. Don't keep tempting foods in the house. If certain foods trigger your emotional eating, it's best to avoid having them around altogether.4. Practise mindful eating. Take the time to sit down and savour your food. Pay attention to the taste, texture, and smell of what you're eating without distractions like TV or work.5. Seek professional help if needed. 

Outlook
Emotional eating is a problem that can have serious consequences if it's not addressed properly. 
Understanding our triggers and finding healthier ways to cope with negative emotions is essential in order to break the cycle of emotional eating. This can be done through mindfulness practices, cognitive behavioural therapy, or simply by being aware of what we're feeling and controlling our reactions to those feelings. 
Begin your journey towards a healthier relationship with food and learn how to better manage your emotions without relying on food for comfort.

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