According to Van Strien, negative emotions can have a major influence on your eating behaviour. In most people, these are accompanied by loss of appetite. Yet a large group of people also reach for the biscuit tin. Women in particular suffer from emotional eating, because they are also more sensitive to stress.
Causes of emotional eating
Van Strien: “Emotional eating can have various causes. In almost all cases, the problem started in early childhood, but only manifests itself during puberty. It may be because you were not taught to eat less when you have negative emotions during your childhood. This occurs, for example, if your father or mother always gave you something to eat when you had to cry or fell. You start to confuse negative emotions with hunger.”
“It can also arise because parents exert some kind of manipulative control over the child. This often happens unconsciously. For example, if the child gets a bad grade, the parent might say, “It makes me really sad.” These kinds of comments make the child lose sight of their own emotions. The child no longer knows what he or she feels. In addition to emotional eating, this can also cause all kinds of other troubles in the future.”
What many people don’t know is that binge eating disorder is a mental illness. “It’s close to borderline personality disorder, which is one of the most difficult disorders to treat,” said Van Strien. Dietitian Van der Kruk agrees: “I have many clients who suffer from emotional eating and I always recommend going to therapy. Everyone knows that an apple is healthier than chocolate. The problem is really deeper and cannot be solved with a diet. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or mindfulness therapy is often used in people with binge eating disorder.”
Emotional eating the boss
Van Strien: “With dialectical behavioral therapy you really tackle the problem at its core. The therapy has been developed to help people deal better with intense emotions such as sadness, sadness or despair. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you to look at problematic situations differently. After that you also learn to deal with it differently. Through these forms of therapy you see that people continue to lose weight. With a weight loss diet, the weight often comes back after a period, because people still do not know how to control their binge eating.”
Tips for emotion eaters
But is there anything you can do yourself to control binge eating? “When you have a mental disorder, it is always important to get help from professionals. If you have any doubts about this, I recommend reading my book ‘Custom weight loss’. On the basis of this you can find out where the cause of your eating problem lies,” says Van Strien.
However, there are also small exercises that you could try at home. “What I also find a nice exercise is: the light smile. If you go through life with a slight smile, people automatically smile back and that makes you happy. Some also hang a smiley face above their bed, which makes the day start a lot happier. In addition, mindfulness skills, which teach someone to live in the here and now, are also very important.”
Van der Kruk: “To gain insight into your eating behavior, it can also help to keep a food diary. You can process what you eat and what emotions you feel at that moment. This allows you to see what the trigger moments are and you can visualize patterns. Ultimately, based on these insights, you can contact an expert to tackle the problem at its core.”
Want to know more about emotional eating?
We also spoke with Marion earlier. She is highly sensitive and eats the tension out of her body with sweets. Ramona has also suffered from emotional eating for a long time. As a bullied child she reached for sweets and that went from bad to worse. In addition, we interviewed Petra, who manages to control her binge eating after intensive therapy.