Emotions or feelings are also an important part being healthy. Certain feelings can change the way we eat and if we are not careful, we can begin to rely on food to help us feel better. Below are answers to several questions about the relationship between emotions and food:

Why and how can emotions affect the way I eat?
We have all used food to deal with our emotions – especially when we have uncomfortable feelings. Unfortunately, most of us don’t grab a fruit or munch on vegetables when this happens. Some research has found that we may go for the high-fat foods, like pizza and potato chips, because they could be activating certain chemicals in our body that make us feel better and more comfortable. The problem with this is that high-fat foods can have a negative effect on other parts of our health! If this happens to you, don’t feel guilty – instead, try to find healthier ways to deal with your emotions.

Why is it negative to eat based on my emotions?
Some teens eat high calorie foods when they are not feeling good. For instance, they may eat an entire pizza, lots of ice cream, or the entire bag of potato chips to make themselves feel better. When people feel down, they may be focused on their negative experience, such as an argument with a loved one or a bad grade, and not notice how many calories they may be consuming. This can be a problem if you experience several negative events often and are eating high calorie foods for many days! Eating too many calories can lead to weight gain and in turn can lead to health problems, low self-esteem, or more negative emotions!

Eating when you are happy can also be problematic. For example, when faced with opportunities to eat a delicious-looking treat, such as a giant turkey leg at a carnival or a chocolate cake at a party, you may be focused too much on the opportunity to eat the goodies and forget all of the extra calories you may be consuming. Think back to the last time you were at a holiday event or at a buffet-style restaurant, did you eat more than usual? Eating too many calories can lead to weight gain an in turn lead to health problems, low self-esteem, and may lead to negative emotions!

How can I know if I am eating based on my emotions?
It can be hard to know if your feelings are guiding your eating behaviors; sometimes feelings can distract us from noticing that we are not hungry or we are full. Answer these questions and then you will be able to recognize when your feelings are controlling your calorie intake!

  • When you had a fight with a friend, do you immediately go to the fridge or pull a snack to eat?
  • When you are bored, do you usually go to the kitchen or to a restaurant just to fill up the time?
  • When you feel anxious, are you focused on eating and do not feel comfortable until you have food in front of you?
  • When you feel pressured by friends, do you eat a meal with them, even though you are not hungry?

If you answered “Yes” to many of these questions, you may be eating based on your emotions. Trying different ways to manage emotions can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and in turn make you feel better about yourself! Read below to find out how you can manage feelings without involving food.

How can I manage my emotions?
Managing your emotions in a healthy manner is an important life skill, as you will be faced with many challenging situations in your lifetime. Every teen is different so finding the best way to handle emotions requires some experimenting. Below are some suggestions that you can try. Remember, some suggestions may work for others, but may not work for you. It’s important to try as many as you can so when a distressing event occurs, you will be prepared to handle your emotions in a healthy way. Below are several emotions and some ways to manage them:
Sadness-Doing something fun and distracting can help pick up your mood. Try these activities:

  • Watch a happy or inspirational movie
  • Listen to fast-paced music or music with uplifting lyrics
  • Draw, paint, or engage in some artistic activity
  • Play with a pet
  • Do something fun with friends, like play basketball or window-shop
  • Go for a walk in a beautiful place, such as a lake or park

Anger-Engaging in an activity that gets rids of negative energy will help you calm down. Try some of these activities:

  • Dance to a fast-paced song
  • Go for a run
  • Yell into a pillow
  • Pull out weeds from a garden
  • Participate in any sport, such as tennis or soccer
  • Go to gym and lift weights or do push ups

Anxiety-Doing an activity that promotes relaxation will decrease uncomfortable feelings. Try these activities:

  • Take a hot bubble bath with softly lit candles
  • Go for a quiet swim
  • Blow bubbles outside
  • Go fishing alone or with a quiet friend
  • Do yoga
  • Listen to music without lyrics, such as instrumental music

No matter how you are feeling, always remember that talking to a trusted friend, adult, or family member is a great way to manage your emotions. Talking to others can help you come up with solutions, give you a different perspective, or just make you feel understood. If talking to others is not appealing, writing in a journal can also help. If you have tried many of the options above and you are still having difficulty managing your emotions, go to your doctor for help.