Why Women Crave Food: Emotional Eating and Its Effects on Your Health

It seems that when it comes to emotional eating, our readers are split. Fifty-eight per cent of you said that you experience cravings when you're feeling emotionally distressed, while 42% of you don't crave that piece of chocolate cake when you're feeling low.

Experts believe that there is a strong association between food and emotion for many women, and this poses a serious challenge to healthy eating. This association is formed because of the way our society and experiences growing up have conditioned us to think about food. As children, we are often rewarded for a straight-A report card with a lollipop, while the sight of the icecream truck sends us into a frenzy of joy.

Adolescence is no different. While many young women often deprive themselves of junk food like chips and chocolate, the logic behind this dieting behavior is the same. Food becomes negatively associated with being overweight or being unpopular; a diet of salad and carrot sticks is deemed the perfect (and yet extremely unhealthy) way to fit into that special dress or new pair of designer jeans.

Age doesn't let up on the challenges to healthy eating. A recent study found that women in their forties and fifties deal with stress through unhealthy diet patterns, such as yo-yo dieting, binge eating, extreme exercise and caloric restriction.

While most women at any age feel a sense of defeat and guilt after giving in to their cravings, experts say this is actually counterproductive, and will only likely spur on unhealthy diet patterns. They say that the true root of the issue must be addressed; find out what it is that's really bothering you before digging into that bag of potato chips. Keeping a journal of your eating patterns and how they link to your emotional state is a great way to take care of your health, both physically and mentally. Confiding in a friend or joining a therapy group are other great ways to relieve sources of stress and unhappiness in your life.

Emotional eating is a very serious women's health issue, and should not be ignored. If the problem is not addressed, it can spin out of control and lead to very grave medical and psychological conditions, such as anorexia, and even health conditions like cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Remember that healthy eating doesn't mean you can't indulge yourself. Cutting out certain foods entirely is a negative approach that will only set you up for failure; a piece of dark chocolate is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while also providing your body with healthy anti-oxidants. Just make sure you don't make a habit of stashing a whole bar in your desk drawer. Try to maintain a balanced diet that includes lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean sources of protein. Prepare healthy snack options instead of heading to the vending machine. And don't forget that healthy eating goes hand-in-hand with exercise.

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