Few people who eat for emotional reasons eat the right kinds of foods nor do they eat the right amount of food. Emotional eating is almost a part of overeating in general. When you eat to hide or comfort yourself from life’s disappointments, negative feelings, or stressors, you tend to eat too much and you tend to make poor food choices. This can lead to negative health consequences that build up over time.
What Can Emotional Eating Lead To?
The health consequences of emotional eating are many. First, emotional eating is often associated with overeating. You don’t pay attention to normal hormonal mechanisms in the body that tell you to stop eating because you have eaten enough and you gain weight over time.
Weight gain can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, like breast cancer and colon cancer. Obesity keeps you from exercising properly because it feels too uncomfortable when you must do so lugging around excess weight. It becomes a bad cycle of eating too much, not exercising, feeling bad about your body, and eating to cope with your bad feelings.
High Blood Pressure
Some emotional eaters are more prone to high blood pressure than normal eaters are. Emotional eating tends to involve eating high salt foods that interact with the kidneys to raise your blood pressure. High blood pressure alone can lead to an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, the connection between eating too much salt and having high blood pressure is even greater.
Type 2 Diabetes
Emotional overeating can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you are the type of person who craves sweet food as part of your unhealthy eating habits, you flood your bloodstream with excess sugar, causing your pancreas to overwork itself trying to release enough insulin to cope with the demand. Eventually, your body’s cells become resistant to excesses of insulin and you develop “insulin resistance” and type 2 diabetes.
Unhealthy Diet And Nutrient Deficits
When you eat emotionally, you tend not to make food choices that are high in nutrients. This can result in your being overweight and malnourished at the same time. Junk food eaten as part of emotional eating is bereft of vitamins, minerals, and food-related cofactors that you need for proper metabolism and functioning of the cells of the body. You can develop specific nutrient deficiencies that can make you feel worse physically. Nutrient deficiencies can involve cravings of their own but because you are not listening to your body, it is hit and miss as to whether you get the nutrients you need.
Emotional And Mental Health Consequences
Emotional overeating leaves you not only with the stressors that caused you to eat in the first place but now you have the added stress caused by having guilty or shameful feelings around your eating. Again, a negative cycle is perpetuated because the added stress helps you turn even more to foods that make you feel only temporarily happy.
Emotional eating has mental consequences as well. You can eat yourself into a state of depression brought on by guilty and negative thinking on your part. You feel helpless around eating and this leads to feeling helpless around other areas of your life. This helplessness and hopelessness can trigger you to have lower levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain so that you can go into a clinical depression just because you are overeating and have developed a general lack of satisfaction over your body.
When you emotionally eat, you tend to isolate yourself physically from others, consumed by emotional pain that you think food will solve. This isolation can lead to negative feelings about yourself, your body, and your place in the world and can lead to mental illness caused directly from overeating and the feelings that go with it.
There is help for emotional eating and you can get that help by asking your doctor for help, seeking the advice of a nutritionist, or talking to a therapist about the underlying feelings that go along with your poor eating habits.