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The root of emotional eating: Where does it come from?

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Emotional eating isn't just a vague problem that's caused by passing negative feelings, says Dr. Pam Spurr, author of "The Emotional Eater's Diet."

Emotional eating, according to Dr. Spurr, has roots in very real experiences and thought patterns that can be usually traced back to childhood. And dieting to compensate for this type of eating won't work - 90 percent of diets fail because people slip back into emotional eating habits, Spurr said in a recent article on the Daily Mail.

But where does emotional eating come from, and how can we stop it?

Food as love

Dr. Spurr explains that food is classically used to soothe and heal, especially when we're children. Our parents comfort us with promises of treats. Snacks are used to entice us to quiet down. We probably also saw our parents indulging in comfort food during rough times, Spurr said. Over time, we start equating emotions with food, and this becomes an established habit well into adulthood.

Food as celebration

In addition to using food as a healing balm, we learn to associate food with celebration and happiness, too. Feating during holidays, Dr. Spurr offers, is a classic example of how we learn to develop extreme behaviors when it comes to food. It's no wonder these types of events can trigger overeating, because they elicit positive emotions - in the same way negative emotions motivate us to turn to food as well, she said.

Undoing the programming

Unraveling a lifelong struggle with food isn't going to happen overnight, but adopting a one-day-at-a-time approach to food is the first place to start, Spurr said.

"Plan what you can do today in response to daily stresses instead of emotional eating. Only think about today and what change you can make. Then go ahead and try it," Spurr wrote.

Owning up to difficult emotions and working through them - not sweeping them under the "emotional carpet" - is also crucial in taking the power out of emotional eating.

"Your emotional eating might have originated within your family but that doesn't mean you can't start understanding and managing it from today."

Source: Daily Mail
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