There are a plethora of emotional reasons that can explain the situations where people eat even when they are not hungry. Emotions like stress, depression, and boredom are common triggers of emotional eating in kids as well as adults. Emotional eating can trace its roots to infancy where parents frequently misinterpreted a child’s distress or cry as hunger when it could be because the child is frightened or feeling too cold or in need of a new a diaper. Such parents are known as ‘emotional feeders’ and they can encourage emotional eating which is a habit that has been linked to eating disorders and weight gain. Strong evidence suggests that parental feeding styles influence majorly the dietary habits of the children and their relation to food and beverages when it comes to addressing their emotions.
Somehow, the act of feeding has associated itself with comfort and nurturing. This tendency continues as we grow up and we resort to food when we experience something unpleasant. Relying on sugary foods, junk food, and desserts for comfort leads to overeating which later on becomes the cause of problems like binge-eating and bulimia. Studies have found that the kids between ages 4 to 6 exhibit more emotional eating than the kids between ages 8 to 10. This suggests that emotional eating is caught up by the kids early in their childhood.
Parents need to understand that feeling angry or sad are natural emotions. Instead of using food as a distraction from these emotions, the children should be taught other ways to cope with them or better tolerate them. This may sometimes even involve the use of positive discipline. Parents should not fear a full-on tantrum or a few tears. They should realize that it is a normal but a necessary part of the child’s development. Also, the eating habits in the young children are developed by their observation of how their parents eat. If they see you eating junk food and drinking soda when you are stressed they would want to do the same upon experiencing similar emotions.
There are some practical methods that you can practice to keep the emotional eating urges of your child and yourself in control.
· Put food in the designated area. Keep every food item in the kitchen or dining room rather than leaving them in the living room so that there is a clear defined eating area. This keeps the visual simulation in check.
· Stock up on healthy food. Quite naturally, you should stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks rather than junk food.
· Check environmental contributors. The surroundings too play a crucial role in contributing to emotional eating. When an individual is not supplied with ideal choices, it may be a better idea to carry some nutritious snack along with you.
· Limit TV time. Children usually binge-eat while watching the TV. The relationship between the TV and overeating is a direct one. Eating when watching TV, regardless of hunger, is a devastating habit that young children develop. Recommended TV viewing time for children is not more than 2 hours a day.
· Get out. Staying in the house all the day can have a dulling effect on the child. Taking them out for a stroll in the evening keeps them active while increasing endorphins, which keeps them energized.