Eating has become a behavior with a lot of restrictions and rules. Of course, some of these are medically recommended, such as a gluten-free diet for people suffering from celiac disease. But other restrictive diets such as the keto diet and paleo diet may forbid foods for different reasons. Our extreme and obsessive diet culture, unfortunately, often fuels emotional eating and food cravings. Binge eating disorder is one of the most common eating disorders that adults suffer from today.

What are the issues with restrictive diets and can we stop emotional eating and food cravings or at least minimize the effect they have on us? Keep reading!

What Is The Difference Between Food Cravings And Emotional Eating?

We tend to get food cravings for anything that we have been told is prohibited. In your mind, the food is unavailable and forbidden. What happens psychologically with these forbidden foods is that you become preoccupied with them. As soon as we are told not to do something, the inclination is to become preoccupied with it and our minds interprets it as a craving. There would definitely be less of an issue with food cravings if we were able to look at different types of food as neutral and as something that we don’t have to restrict or limit.

Emotional eating is more of a coping mechanism. People often use this as a way to try to manage their emotional states, such as anxiety, depression, stress or even boredom. Food is often used to shift an emotional state as it offers either an opportunity for soothing or distraction.

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More On Emotional Eating

Sometimes it is okay to use food as a coping mechanism. It’s impossible to think that you will never eat something to lighten your mood, as we all sometimes celebrate life with a glass of champagne or a slice of cake. Maybe you should rather ask yourself how often you are using food to shift your mood or as a coping mechanism. If this is the only way in which you are managing your emotions, you might have to address it. You can do this by identifying what specific emotions you are trying to change or soothe. Only once you have identified what the psychological or emotional issue is, will you be able to shift your reliance on food to more useful ways of coping with emotion such as physical activity, exercise, therapy or friends. Read more about how you can gain control of emotional eating.

Why Is It So Difficult To Make Eating Related Lifestyle Changes?

So many people do not like their bodies and it is really difficult to make a change from a position of dissatisfaction or hate. It is almost impossible to think that you deserve a change if you don’t even like yourself. You need to feel that you are worth caring about if we think of dietary changes as a form of self-care.

Another issue is the way in which people expect their bodies to look like. This is often internalized because of representations from the media or because of what people around them have said. The diet and lifestyle changes come much more easily when someone’s sense of value and worthiness from their external physical condition has been disentangled.

What Can I Do To Stop Food Cravings And Emotional Eating Right Now?

You can first ask yourself whether it really is necessary that you are not allowed to have the foods that you crave. Ask yourself where the rule came from and what would happen if you would give in to the cravings. Find out why you need to resist these foods.

For emotional eating, you need to try to understand for what reasons you are eating – comfort, sleep, irritation? Start out by being curious about your behaviors, as awareness is the first step to change.