Written By Kathleen Murray, LCSW
Very often the perceived hunger that drives emotional eating is driven by a hunger to get important emotional needs met. If we could identify those needs and find other strategies to meet them, we could reduce the need to eat emotionally. Here are some suggestions:
The Need for Safety and Ease. Perceived lack of safety, physical and emotional, leads to the activation of the stress response. Food calms down our sympathetic nervous system calms us down. Breathing exercises with a prolonged exhalation can have a similar effect.
Need for Love and Connection. Feeling disconnected leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Supportive social connections can help meet this need in a healthier ways.
Need for Autonomy. Sometimes we feel that food is the only thing we can count on or control. Setting goals and making healthier choices is a better way to exercise our autonomy over our own lives.
Need for Beauty, Pleasure and Fun. Our society sometimes underestimates these needs. Meeting these needs leads to more stress resilience and emotional stability.
Need for Meaning and Purpose. These unfulfilled needs can lead to feelings of worthlessness and emptiness that we can then crave to fill up with food. Finding meaningful projects which make a contribution to the world can better fill this need.